January 27, 2012

Coffee with Character, Part 2

It wasn't too long ago that I wrote a piece featuring some of the themed cafes of Seoul. It turned out to be a popular post, so I've decided to write my first follow-up entry highlighting some other quirky cafes I've visited since then.

Travel has always been a passion of mine, so I was very excited when a friend told me about Cafe 1010, located in wonderful Hongdae in the alley just next to Hello Kitty Cafe. Just as one might be greeted by a flight attendant upon boarding an airplane, lego-like pilots give a hospitable smile to patrons entering the cafe. Once inside, I was able to choose from an assortment of "air meals" which I'm sure taste better than your run-of-the-mill in-flight food. The service was also better, too. I even received a receipt in the form of a boarding pass. The interior was delightfully adorned with travel guides, postcards, and maps from worldwide destinations. For a brief moment, I thought I was in Incheon, waiting for a flight. Luckily that was not the case, as I had no yet had my fill of cute themed cafes.

Patrons to Cafe 1010 are greeted by a lego-like pilot .

Zoo Coffee is a chain of coffee shops that are quickly popping up throughout Seoul. While the interior is simple and clean, they make sure to incorporate lots of jungle motif in their decor. Take-out cups are are decorated in an animal print, as are the throw pillows in the booths. Artificial trees are placed appropriately throughout the seating areas, but not so much as to make customers feel swamped. There are also some over-sized stuffed animals for sale, which are always a big hit with kids and kids at heart. In addition to the decor, the drinks are another reason that make Zoo Coffee stand out from the rest. Their creamy white hot chocolate is to die for and their "I'm Korean" menu, consisting of beverages like Ginseng Red Honey Latte and Iced Persimmon, make this cafe anything but average.

Though 5CIJUNG cafe in Seorae Maeul (also on Garusol-gil) isn't exactly themed, it's a cafe worth mentioning. Famous for its delectable souffles, the coffee here is served up with a side of cuteness. All coffee and food is delivered with a small toy or trinket, making the somewhat pricey drinks worth it. The spoons and utensils are just as cute, often donning smiley faces. Although patrons cannot keep the toys, they're a fun conversation piece that make one's cafe experience a bit different than the rest.

Coffee, served with sugar and cuteness- just how I like it.

Korea is often coined "Dynamic Korea" in various tourism advertisements and it's easy to see why. There are the palaces, the traditions, the vibrant lights, the modern technology. It's truly a captivating nation and is anything but average, even when it comes to a simple cup of coffee. I've traveled to many places but I have yet to find a city that does coffee as creatively- or dynamically- as Seoul. A latte is not just a drink here. It's an experience with a concept. It's my hope that these themed cafes are around to stay, as they are an excellent attribute to the Korean travel experience.


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