Korean-Approved Cafes
A total compilation of Korean-favorite cafes
a month ago
Hyunki Kim @creatripfromSeoul

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Korea consumes a lot of coffee per capita; every adult drinks on average 9 cups of coffee in a week. It's become a huge part of the daily routine in Korea, but it's more of a thing to buy a cup of coffee from a cafe rather than make it at home, which is the reason why cafes are so big here. Today we're going to go over how coffee became so popular and the top 5 cafe brands in Korea. 

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The Reason Behind Korea's Robust Cafe Industry

Korea is quickly rising to the top behind US and China in terms of coffee consumption. In 2017, there were over 91,000 cafes in Korea (Data from Agency for Traditional Market Administration).

Shall we take a look at just how there are so many cafes in Korea?

1. Consumption of Cafe Space

Many university students as well as those with jobs go to cafes to get coffee, but many are also there to study, work, or to meet up with others. Cafes cater to these guests by offering free wifi, plenty of power outlets, and spacious tables. 

During midterm and finals season, cafes along all the university roads turn into reading rooms. 

This is because many prefer the freer atmosphere of the cafe rather than that of the stuffy library. They even have a name for themselves: Cagongjok (Cafe study tribe). These people are one of the leading forces that have let the Korean cafe industry become the behemoth it is today.

2. A Change of Attitude Behind Coffee

When Starbucks first came to Korea in 1999, a cup of coffee would cost around 3,000 KRW. This was back when a full meal would cost you 2,000 - 3,000 KRW, making Starbucks almost a symbol of extravagance. 

It's been twenty years since, and now everybody naturally heads to a cafe after their meal. 

It wouldn't be wrong to call coffee a consumption habit among Koreans; many get a cup on their way to work, after lunch, or after getting off of work to take some time with their friends. 

TOP 5 Popular Cafe Brands in Korea

Brands ranked and the price of an Americano

(2018 from the Fair Trade Commission)

RankingBrandNumber of StoresPrice of an Iced Americano
1Ediya Coffee2,142๏ฟฆ3,200
5Paik's Coffee539๏ฟฆ2,000

The most famous cafe brands in Korea are Ediya Coffee, Starbucks, Yogerpresso, Angel-in-us, and Paik's Coffee. Starting from the top, let's take a closer look at each brand. 

Korea's 1st most popular cafe brand:
Ediya Coffee

Ediya Coffee is a Korean cafe brand. Based on a 2018 survey, it's the brand with the most stores in Korea. A relatively late starter in the cafe race, Ediya knew that they couldn't compete with the more established brands with the same old strategies, so they took the route of opening a lot of super small stores. Another strategy was to place stores next to Starbucks stores; they'd get the straggler Starbucks customers by having a cheaper, smaller store next to the cafe behemoth. 

The iced Americano is 3,200 KRW, much cheaper than most other brands. That doesn't mean the coffee quality is any lacking; it's just that the stores tend to be super small and not always study/work friendly with not too many outlets. But because the cafe is take-out centered and has a high turnover rate, this is the reason why Ediya Coffee remains so cheap.

Korea's 2nd most popular cafe brand:

50% of Korea's Starbucks is owned by its original American company Starbucks Coffee International, Inc. and the other 50% is owned by EMart. Since its first store in 1999 in front of Ehwa Women's University, it's now expanded to over 1,200 stores nationwide. Starbucks has less stores than Ediya Coffee, but its yearly sales exceeds 100 billion KRW.

What I personally find super interesting is that all Starbucks stores are branches managed by the main company, rather than franchise stores as many other Korean cafe brand stores are. There's no way to start or manage a Starbucks other than for a building owner to submit an application online for a Starbucks in their building. Even if you apply, there's no guarantee that the company will approve that location. The value of the building can skyrocket if there's a Starbucks, so a lot of building owners are eager for a store to come in.

The Iced Americano at Starbucks is 4,100 KRW at the time of writing. Unlike the rising prices of other cafe brands, Starbuck's prices have remained relatively stable; it's funny to think that Starbucks was once considered extravagant. Considering the price you pay for the cafe space, Starbucks is no longer a luxury, but rather provides good bang for your buck. 

Korea's 3rd most popular cafe brand:

 The name Yogerpresso is a combination of "yogurt" and "espresso." It's actually a dessert cafe that offers delicious and inexpensive yogurt-based dessert options, but the coffee is pretty good here as well. Yogerpresso's business strategy is to be constantly updating their menu to stay current and reflect ongoing trends. 

Yogerpresso's iced Americano is 3,000 KRW as take-out and 4,000 KRW in-store. The price is low compared to its competitors.

Like you can guess from the name, the yogurt desserts are their main rather than the coffee. I personally highly recommend the Merry Strawberry yogurt drink (6,000 KRW).

Korea's 4th most popular cafe brand:
Angel-in-us CoffeeAngel-in-us is a franchise cafe brand managed by one of Korea's biggest corporations, Lotte. The name is meant to suggest that the coffee you'll get inside is as soft and calming as an angel.

Cute angel characters decorate Angel-in-us stores. Some stores even have wing-shaped couches. Their coffee also has a distinct taste; they serve coffee that has that nutty, rich flavor that Koreans like so much. I personally like the sour notes of coffee so I always ask for "soft beans" when ordering an Americano at Angel-in-us.

The iced Americano is 4,100 KRW, but the rest of the menu items are on the more expensive side compared to the other franchise brands. But all the stores tend to be above-par as the interior is clean and is backed by a huge corporation like Lotte. 

Korea's 4th most popular cafe brand:
Paik's Coffee

Paik's Coffee was started by a Korea restaurant business star, Paik Jongwon. He started the cafe just as a way to give his restaurant customers cheap coffee for dessert, but it became so popular that he transformed it into a national franchise brand. Most Paik's Coffee stores are take-out based, which allows for some super cheap coffee.

An iced Americao at Paik's Coffee will cost 2,000 KRW, making it the cheapest of the bunch. The coffee flavor isn't anything amazing, but it does the trick for those looking for value. 

This has been a total compilation of the top 5 cafe brands. If you see any of them while in Korea, you can trust that they've been local-approved!      

The above was a post on Top 5 Popular Korean Cafe Brands. If you have any further inquiries, please feel free to comment below or shoot us an email at support@creatrip.com.

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