Chan’s Espresso Bar, Hongdae
Seoul is teeming with coffee shops, from ubiquitous carbon copied franchises, to quirky, distinct and imaginatively designed and themed independents. And they’re often full. Having coffee (or other drinks like a sweet potato or blueberry latte) is a popular past-time. Unfortunately the majority of coffee available here is awful or overpriced or, as is more common, both. The Korean penchant for scorched Americano’s drunk through tiny straws has been detailed on these pages before, but regardless, good coffee is available for a price. Many places serve ‘dutch’-style cold brewed coffee made with old fashioned and pharmaceutical looking equipment, pour-overs, or siphon coffee, of which I know little. A small percentage of places serve great espresso style coffee, Chan’s Espresso Bar is one of them.
The menu is a short list of all the espresso variations you’d expect with the addition of a cortado, which is similar to a piccolo latte: a shot of espresso topped with steamed milk and just a little creamy foam. Chan’s version is longer than expected reminiscent of the antipodean flat white, in a very good way. The coffee here is made expertly with care and precision using Tim Wendelboe beans. The expected caffeine hit is foreshadowed by a coffee flavour rich and fruity blending well with the sweet milk, perfectly micro-foamed. If it weren’t for the 6,000won +* price tag and the undocumented opening hours (beware, it’s hard to find anything open before 11am or midday in Hongdae) Chan’s Espresso Bar would be my cafe of choice.
*To put the price tag into perspective, 6,000 won (~$5AU) can buy you a whole grilled fish meal, most of a bowl of ramen or Japanese curry, or a serving of my favourite kimchi jiggae with enough change left over to grab a bottle of soju from your nearest convenience store.
Chan’s Espresso Bar
Expensive, but worth it.
Cortado – 6,000won
Cappuccino – 6,500won
Location: Closer to Hapjeong and Sangsu stations than Hongdae. Check the map: