These are the “not just coffee” entries that, nonetheless, must be mentioned. Why? Well, because they sell coffee, dagnabbit.
I have established some (arbitrary) rules for when a business gets on the list. There is no need to artificially inflate the numbers. As a commenter noted in a recent post: “I have never seen so many coffee shops in my life.”
1. If the business has coffee in its name, it goes in, sight-unseen.
2. If the business has cafe or caffe (or both!) in its name, it gets a better look at and often will go in. There are occasionally bars (called “hofs,” pronounced “hopeu” and taken from the German “hofbrauhaus”) that also are called cafes and thus are not included.
3. If the business is referred to as something else, like a “dessert cafe (a la the awkwardly-named “To the Different”),” it gets a cursory glance. If there are any prominent advertisements for coffee, it’s in. If there is a struggle to find coffee as a primary product, I’ll look further. If it’s still a struggle, I won’t include it.
4. No place will be included more than once. That means since I have already included “Gentle Coffee,” I won’t include it again if what I think is a stand-alone shop (although Korean companies both small and large have a tendency to fully-embrace a “chain store” aesthetic. Perhaps its believed to be a sign of strength and success?) gets another location somewhere else. I might reconsider revisiting a shop for a “Random Weekly Review” if something compels me (like a reader request, for instance).
And now, onto the show!
60. Paris Baguette. The big daddy of exported Korean food-based brands. I remember a location in a Korean-themed strip mall in Edison, NJ, which also included a Korean meat buffet and Jjimjilbang (which employees at the Korean Supermarket there, H-Mart, said had been “Coming Soon” for over two years). And, let’s not forget the whole thing about opening a location in the super-touristy center of Paris. Recently, they began heavily promoting their “Cafe Adagio” brand of Rainforest Alliance-approved coffees. Which, frankly, taste just as average as what they were selling before. And employees are still usually confused if you ask for cold milk.
61. Tous les Jours. The other big bakery chain that doesn’t seem to get as much love as PB. There were one of these in that same Edison, NJ Korean-themed strip mall. Except it was inside the H-Mart. The PB was a standalone. I had a cup of Americano at a location near one of my schools recently, two-shot. And, I have to say, I thought it was pretty decent stuff.
62. T-World Cafe. Anyone loosely familiar with things in Korea might recognize T-World as a cellular provider. Yes, they are. And, yes, they also have coffee (apparently it’s “healing coffee”) in some of their shop locations. No place is sacrosanct.
63. Davich Cafe & Caffe. If cellular carriers can have coffee shops, why not eyeglass shops? It only makes sense. These two kids, whom I imagine were there because their parents were getting glasses and not because the food and coffee here is just so much better than Paris Baguette, had a good laugh with me as I took their picture at this location (which is across the street from T-World Cafe).
64. Isaac Toast & Coffee. Toast sandwiches (primarily egg and shredded cabbage, a sweet barbecue sauce and often cheese and ham) used to be big, big, big in Korea in the 2000s. You can still find them in plenty of places, including here in the ethnically and culturally diverse section of Gimhae known by expats as “Shinae” (downtown). However, when coffee took off in Korea, what was considered the most widely-recognized Toast shop added coffee to the mix. You can see the prominent advertising for the shop’s caffeinated indulgences above.
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.