As I mentioned in my last post, Sinchon is brimming with coffee shops (no pun intended). Korea’s cafe culture has been around for a long time; look around and you’re likely to spot students, well-dressed business people, and older folks alike chatting over drinks (and often smoking cigarettes if there’s an outdoor patio or a smoking floor). These cafes are everywhere, and they all have their own style.
I was sipping on iced tea in one such cafe yesterday afternoon, while working on my blog. The coffee shop was called NaMu (Korean for tree), and was on the second and third floors of a building in the heart of Sinchon. The wall facing the street was a floor-to-ceiling window, perfect for people-watching, but since the table I wanted was taken I settled for a small table with a plush chair in the back. Don’t let me mislead you – NaMu isn’t “the perfect coffee shop” (at least for me). But here’s a picture anyway:
Now you might be wondering what this perfect café looks, sounds, and feels like. Here’s how I see it:
It’s got to have big, well-placed windows. Extra points if it’s in a prime people-watching location (upper floors help, but then again there are some great sidewalk cafes).
*mellow ambiance & ample seating
Good music, soft lighting, and comfy chairs. When I say good, I don’t mean a specific genre or type of music. I just want something that won’t annoy me even after sitting in the same spot for a few hours. Volume has a lot to do with it. And soft lighting is a must. Natural lighting is even better. I get enough bright, unfiltered light in my little 하숙방 (hasookbang: boarding house room). Lastly, I need a chair/booth/sofa that’s comfortable enough to settle down in until they kick me out.
By free I mean you-don’t-have-to-pay-money-or-give-away-detailed-personal-information, such as a passport number, which Starbucks’s free wifi asked me to enter to verify I am a real person. Needless to say, I am typing this post in a word document.
*an uncommon, delicious menu item
Because of the sheer number of cafes around Seoul, the one has to be special. If it’s the perfect coffee shop/cafe, then it will offer something delicious that others don’t – whether that’s a homemade pastry, interesting coffee drink, or creative sandwich. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the most unique looking item on the menu from now on. Sometimes I think coffee shops focus too much on being trendy and having really great ambiance than what they offer to eat and drink. NaMu, for example, lists a number of different flavored iced teas for 5,000 won. I could’ve made the tea I bought myself…
…which brings me to price. I don’t want to break the bank on coffee and tea, no matter how good it is. I’m thinking 3-4,000 won for a drink – maybe 5,000 if it’s spectacular ($1 is about 1,200 KRW). If lots of locals frequent the place, it’s probably on the more affordable end, so that’s something I’ll keep an eye out for (although this could be totally misleading…we’ll see).
I may not find the perfect cafe during my ten weeks in Seoul – only time will tell. There are plenty for me to try, so I’m sure I’ll find a few that come close. Let the search begin!