Anyone with a passing knowledge of the coffee culture in South Korea knows that competition is cutthroat. There are just too many places around for half-assery to take place. Anyone also will know that places come and go, sometimes in less than a few months. So, if the coffee isn’t great, at least the atmosphere better be. Because, as many might also know, coffee shops aren’t just about the coffee (or the Caramel Macchiato, or whatever your poison), it’s about the experience.
Mellow Coffee, in Gimhae, achieved both good taste and good place on a recent, relaxing afternoon stroll around my old stomping grounds. On a calm Saturday afternoon, bellies full from some of the best dweji gukbap (pork and rice soup) I have ever had (Gusan-dong Dweji Gukbap, located a stone’s heaving throw from the Yeonji Park lightrail stop on the Busan-Gimhae Lightrail), myself and the better half were not desperate for anything caffeinated. And, we weren’t looking for something familiar, like Starbucks. We wanted something calm, something relaxing, something… well, you can figure it out.
One thing immediately apparent is how classic the place looks. Warm woods, books on the wall and an open floor plan create a very inviting atmosphere. Add to that Mellow Coffee’s quiet side street location, within walking distance to Gimhae National Museum and between two convenient lightrail stops, and you’ll want to go mellow, too.
But, despite my earlier statement about the place being a very important factor in whether or not a cafe is successful, if the coffee blows you’re not going to want to go (back).
Our drinks on this afternoon, her Caramel Macchiato (5,000 won) and my Cafe Latte (4,500 won) were on the higher end of average prices for coffee drinks in South Korea. However, both were made with TLC that showed in both presentation and taste. My latte had a lovely balance of light milk flavor with strong, quality coffee, while the better half raved about her drink’s thick, luxurious foam, which retained its shape with each sip.
True life is lived when tiny changes occur, apparently. So, if you’re in Gimhae, or perhaps in Busan and looking to get out of that city’s constant hustlebustle, consider taking a Saturday afternoon trip west to Gimhae. And, be sure to mellow out for a while while you’re there.
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.