felt coffee latte

Seoul Cafe: 5 Independent Cafes

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 Coffee Roasters

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The awesome female baristas at Anthracite — Photo by Athena Lam

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.

Homepage / Facebook

5 Extracts

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Latte for a rainy day — Photo by Athena Lam

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.

Facebook

Fritz

Fritz Coffee seoul

Fritz has a wooden, artsy-themed interior with stool seats — Photo by Athena Lam

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.

Facebook

Felt

Felt Coffee Seoul Sinchon

Felt is a minimalist cafe with character and amazingly priced good coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

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.

Facebook

Coffee Libre

Cafe Libre Seoul Yeonnam-dong

This unassuming joint has a huge influence on Seoul’s coffee community — Photo by Athena Lam

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.

Website

Thanks for checking this out! If you liked this post, check out my list of Off-Centre and East Tokyo cafes!

Seoul
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Seoul Cafes: 5 Extracts (Itaewon)

A review of 5 Extracts in Seoul by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Descriptions are equal parts coffee and remote-work suitability.

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5 Extracts Coffee location in Itaewon — Photo by Athena Lam

Cafe Overview:

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Light pastries served with the independent coffee — Photo by Athena Lam

5 Extracts in Itaewon is a modern and classy reincarnation of the down-to-earth Hongdae cafe with its award-winning barista, Hyunsun Choi.  The espresso served is pulled to accommodate a complex set of flavours. My memory of the tasting notes included a hint of fruity acidity, with a strong, nutty profile. The ratio of foam is quite low, about 10%, but it’s frothed to a smooth, rich and sweet perfection. I’ve concluded it’s just the way Seoul cafes like to do their espresso milk drinks, as Anthracite just down the road does something similar. Options also include syphon-brewed single-origin beans, which I opted out of because I was having an off day.

Options also include syphon-brewed single-origin beans, which I opted out of because I was having an off day. I do, however, recommend getting a pastry like the pain au chocolate that I ordered as well.

 

Seoul 5 extracts coffee

Expect about 10% foam for milk-based espressos. — Photo by Athena Lam

The seating options include cushioned seats against the wall, tables for two in the middle section, and low workbenches facing the street. I think 5 Extracts has guest WiFi if you ask for the password, but the Starbucks signal across the street was strong enough to work off of for me.

The cafe is lively on weekends, but Choi doens’t rush any customers. The ebb and flow means there’s virtually always a seat.

Seoul 5 extracts coffee

A variety of seating options — Photo by Athena Lam

 

What I like About Them:

You wouldn’t know from his gentle demeanour that Choi was a 2011 World Barista Championship semi-finalist. He and his assistant took their time to serve my coffee and pain au chocolat, but when both came out in individual trays fitted to my individual coffee table, they were perfect. The 5000 Won for a drink is quite pricey, but about standard for the upscale area and Seoul’s better cafes.

Seoul 5 extracts coffee

Stratified loft gives an open atmosphere to the various sections — Photo by Athena Lam

Seoul 5 extracts coffee

Naturally-lit work stations facing the main street — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Espresso, Pour-over, syphon
  • Food: Light pastries
  • Cafe Space: Individual work tables, workbenches along the table facing the street, individual coffee table seats (too low for work)
  • Friends: Hangouts & catching up
  • Workspace: Staggered open loft
  • Remote Work: WiFi available and Starbucks WiFi across the street available
Address:  IGNORE THE MAPS (Google Maps, and even 5 Extracts’ own Facebook page)
I couldn’t find proper, updated, address, but I have marked Google Maps below. It is right across the street from a standalone, eye-catching Starbucks.
Website:  Facebook

Thanks for checking this out! If you liked this post, check out my list of Tokyo cafes Off-Centre and East Tokyo cafes!

Seoul
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Seoul Cafes: Anthracite Coffee Roasters (Itaewon)

A review of Anthracite Coffee Roasters in Seoul by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Descriptions are equal parts coffee and remote-work suitability.

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Anthracite Coffee Roasters main entrance opens into a patio — Photo by Athena Lam

Cafe Overview:

The first thing one notices about Anthracite is the patio that flanks either side of the wide-open main entrance. On a good day, at least one person will be on the benches, enjoying the coffee and fresh air. On a rainy day, the steady stream of patrons will choose from the numerous tables in the second and third floor. For remote workers and digital nomads, Wi-Fi is available!

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Third-floor seating — Photo by Athena Lam

But first thing’s first: order at the long bar facing the street. Espresso drinks are made with their Butter Fat Trio blend while pour over has a selection of Rainha (Brazil), Banko (Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia), Los Naranjos (Colombia), and Challem (Kenya). I came with a friend, so we tried an ice Challem and cappuccino.

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The baristas are friendly and will make recommendations based on your preferences — Photo by Athena Lam

The Challem was incredible. At first whiff, the aroma is smokey and fruity. the flavour is like beer (smokey, slightly hoppy, ale). Then, the chocolatey notes come through and a slightly floral note (but not typical fruity flavour) drifts just below the surface. Needless to say, the brewing with ice didn’t compromise the flavour at all.

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No words can express how delicious this was — Photo by Athena Lam

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Espresso blend has surprising tangy notes — Photo by Athena Lam

The cappuccino also had surprising flavours. The flavour is the classic nutty and acidic that Pacific West Coast espressos prefer. The ratio leans towards acidic, but is balanced out with a caramel flavour and the rich milk. You can also check out other characteristics of Seoul’s independent coffees in my overview post.

What I like About Them:

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Single origin iced Kenya Challem — Photo by Athena Lam

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Female baristas are still rare, let alone two! — Photo by Athena Lam

The first thing I noticed was that the baristas were women, which is great to see in a still mostly male-dominated profession. Over the three days that I visited, the service was always super patient and friendly. If you are undecided about what to try, ask them for recommendations and they will make them based on your preferences.

seoul anthracite coffee

Second-floor seating — Photo by Athena Lam

In addition to the ground floor patio area, patrons ordering eat-in (with the premium price) can head up to the second and third floors. The second floor has a garden island while the third floor doubles up as an open baking kitchen. Both are brightly lit, with some hipstery dangling cables with exposed lightbulbs. The second floor is more polished and has a long workbench while the top floor has a slightly rough industrial look that feels a bit like an old school-house. Both are great for working out of all day.

Anthracite coffee seoul

Free Americano with whole bean purchase! — Photo by Athena Lam

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Anthracite open patio seating — Photo by Athena Lam

Good For:

  • Coffee: Pour-over filter coffee, espresso.
  • Food: Light pastries / sweet breads
  • Cafe Space: Tons of individual tables and 1 long workbench
  • Friends: Hangouts & catching up
  • Workspace: 3 floors + street patio
  • Remote Work: WiFi available, a few plugs
Address:  738-20 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

월 – 목 오전 9시 – 오후 10시 / 금 – 일 오전 10시 – 오후 11시

Website:  Homepage / Facebook

Thanks for checking this out! If you liked this post, check out my list of Tokyo cafes Off-Centre and East Tokyo cafes!

Seoul