A sample of independent cafes / coffee houses in Seoul by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad on a weekend getaway. Descriptions factor in both coffee quality and remote-work suitability.
Overall Comparison to Japan & Pacific Northwest:
- 10-20% foam ratio for espresso milk drinks (compared 20-30%)
- Serving temperature for espresso milk drinks is just under hot (as in not luke-warm, but not too hot to wipe the fruity flavours).
- Take-out is way cheaper than Japan (5,500 > 3,000 or even 2,500)
- Lots of sitting space, usually quiet, and no lineups
- WiFi often available
Anthracite has made it to one of my global favourites. Their hand-drip Challem (Kenya) single origin has delightfully unique flavours and is expertly brewed. Their espresso drinks are also great. Plus, the cafe has 3 floors for seating and WiFi.
Just down the block from Anthracite, 5 Extracts is opened by a world champion barista. The staggered, loft-style seating area has refined modern tastes. The latte is a hefty 5.500, but is well pulled and syphon and chemex coffee is also available. They roast their beans in the basement. Note that Google Maps, Foursquare, and just about everything I could search in English was incorrect. Their new location is at Itaewon, right across from the stand-alone Starbucks.
Frtiz is located off the beaten track at Mapo, but worth the visit. Again, they also have champion baristas and serve espresso and pour over drinks. The pour over I had was alright (but it was my fault for accidentally ordering a rather flat-toned single origin bean) and the espresso my friend had was solid. The seating is great for remote work.
Felt is located just behind the converted train tracks / university walk in a quiet alley with boutique shops. The setup is minimalist and has no tables for the cafe-workers. The owner has his signature spectacles and Slayer machine. Espresso comes in two blends (standard and seasonal) and the pour overs are single origins.
Cafe Libre at Yeongnam-dong is just beside Dongjin Market in a small alley. Seu Pil-hoon is the first Korean Q-grader! Definitely come check out the beans he and his team have sourced from around the world.