HyunSangSo, in Korean it means a photo processing laboratory, more commonly known as a print shop. That’s what this place was before transforming into one of the most unique cafés in Seoul. A quick word of mouth has not only put this café on the maps of many Seoulites, it has even brought the neighborhood some new attention. The all white café has a subtle warm tone to it, especially from the lamps lighting up a warm yellow hue. The windows are covered with a light curtain, letting in enough light to brighten up the whole place, but making sure none of the subtleties are lost from any intense sunlight. The wide open space, with white wooden flooring, consists only of 10 round tables, a few exhibition pedestals and the café of course. The middle is left wide open, almost making us expect the bride and father come in for the father-daughter dance of an all white wedding. As we are seated, the waitress hands over an envelope. Within in are two folded papers, containing a memo written in pencil. At this point, it really does feel like an invitation to a wedding, just until you read what it says. It’s the menu to the café. All different types of coffee are priced at 7,000 won while the desserts are 5,000 won. Both the ‘Sea Salt Cream Espresso’ and the ‘ChocoCream on the Milk’ contain a little bit of salt to strengthen its innate sweetness. The ‘ChocoCream on the Milk’ is thicker than chocolate milk but lighter than a hot chocolate, making for a great chocolate drink. The ‘Apple C
Navigating through the narrow alleys of Mullae Arts Village, a sudden floral oasis with a large western-ish sign that reads “Old Mullae” grabbed our attention. Approaching the small garden filled with colorful flowers in bloom seemed completely out of place, leaving us irresistibly and suspiciously walking into the venue. After the short moment of awe, we proceeded into the main hall which impressed us even more. The 1930’s building maintains the original Japanese wooden frameworks but, in the course of history, has added elements of industrialization and, finally, a touch of the Midwest given by the owner, who also works as an architect. The space is filled with works of art, repurposed machineries and a lot of greenery. Old Mullae is a café during the day, and as soon as the clock hits 6pm, it turns into a bar, as the laid back jazz is replaced by mainstream pop loud enough to cover up the uncontrollable alcohol-filled voices. The owner keeps a strict schedule, refusing to sell any of the café menus during its bar hours. And we’d say that she does so rightfully, as the drink selection including Founders Porter in tap and cider from Hand and Apple is quite awesome. As for some of their bar foods, the owner suggests their fish and chips as the portion is quite large, perfect for a group of friends. The potatoes are brought in from Pyeongchang, are washed every morning and deep-fried upon order. The batter made with beer is super crispy.
Following the availability of small American craft roasters including Intelligentsia and Stumptown Coffee Stumptown Coffee, we now have the Berlin-based artisan roaster Bonanza in Seoul. Even beyond Berlin, Bonanza Coffee is one of the fastest-growing roasters in Europe, with its original location selected by National Geographic as one of the “25 coffee shops around the world you have to see before you die.” This new international location is in Itaewon, but the surrounding area of Hangangjin (near Downtowner burger pub and Pizzeria D' Buzza’s Hannam Dong branch) is quite serene. Although the café is located inside novelty merchandise retailer Morethanless, its seriousness towards extractions has been attracting even professional baristas and humble home brewers alike. As I open its large glass doors and step inside, sturdy La Marzocco Linea machine first catches this aficionado’s eyes. A specialty coffee icon established in Florence, Italy, it grew with Starbucks’ early expansion, and since been an inspiration for most of the high-end espresso machine brands in the world including Synesso and Slayer. The overall atmosphere of the café is quite refined and modern (which is appropriate for its identity as a fashion retailer as well). The staff is kind and friendly, while the audio system involving a powerful amp and a fancy set of speakers are adding another tasteful element to the space. The star of the show is, of course, the coffee. The roasted beans selection available