I think I have mentioned this briefly in a previous post, but I love Korean cafe culture. Korea is full of cafes, some chains and others local. There are so many cafes surrounding my campus I would have to spend months going to a different cafe every day to visit them all. Even then, it would probably be a never-ending process because there’s always a new cafe opening up. It seems to be almost mandatory to go to a cafe for coffee or tea and maybe a dessert after having a meal with friends. A hobby for some of my Korean friends is using Instagram, Facebook, or Naver (basically Korean Google) to find the newest “hot place” (yes, they use the English term) around town. Usually, the hotter the place, the more expensive the beverages, but most of the time it is worth it for the taste and the experience.
Since there are so many cafes, businesses have to work hard to pull in customers. Of course, the coffee has to taste good. Often, cafes will have some kind of “signature drink” or a drink that is very pretty. The prettier the drink, the more likely the customer will take a photo of it and upload it onto their social media, essentially doing your advertising for you. The interior has to be nicely decorated and usually goes with some kind of theme: sleek and modern, cozy and warm, vintage and nostalgic, etc. Again, the interior or at least certain parts of it are often designed with the intention of making a like-worthy Instagram photo.
Although some may find this culture shallow, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Yes, you may pay extra for a fairly normal latte because it has fancy decorations, or because the cafe interior is nice. If you are willing to pay that extra amount, that’s just fine with me. There are also plenty of cafes in Korea with low price point instead of Instagram-worthy drinks as their selling point. In other words, there’s a cafe for everyone.
Finally, another great aspect of Korean cafe culture is specialized cafes. Of course, many people have heard about cat cafes (and dog cafes, sheep cafes, raccoon cafes, etc.) in Korea. Those are fun as well, but there are also some less-famous themed cafes in Korea. Study cafes or book cafes are particularly nice for students looking for a quiet place to study. A book cafe near my school will serve your coffee together with a book on a tray. There are also cartoon cafes that have many different manga and manhwa (Korean manga) books. There are also hanok cafes, where the building the cafe is in is a traditional Korean house (hanok). Now that summer is fast approaching, rooftop cafes are growing increasingly popular as great places to enjoy a drink with a nice view in the open air.
Although Korea is full of chain cafes, I personally think that, just like anywhere else, the local shops are more charming. If you come to Korea, make sure to try a signature drink at a local cafe nearby.