The Caffeine is High on Kdrama Land

A Kdrama that has no scene at a coffee shop. Name one.

(Silence)

I know. It’s hard to think of one (except for historical dramas of course). As I try to remember every Korean drama I have seen, I find it almost impossible to pinpoint one where I did not see any coffee bean, a cup of espresso, or a cute “oppa” at the counter. At times, I wondered why coffee shops often show up in kdramas. Is it plainly for marketing purposes? I recollected the local TV dramas I saw when I was a child and found out that the case was different. In fact, I do not remember any coffee shop scene in those evening dramas on local channels in the Philippines. So, does coffee in Kdramas reflect a distinct part of Korean culture? Will visiting Korea feel like walking along Coffee Land? And how does this appeal to viewers like me who come from different sides of the world?

Coffee is serious business in South Korea

Coffee shops have now become a common sight in most places. Popular coffee chains are a few walks away from most offices and universities. Themed cafés have emerged in the past years: bookworm nooks, cat and dog cafés, even Harry Potter themed cafés to name a few! With today’s coffee culture, it is then an expected sight to see on Kdrama Land especially since Koreans do love their cafés and have taken it to a higher level.

Starbucks in Seoul
Starbucks in Dongbu Ichondong, Seoul, South Korea. (Photo Credit: Starbucks)

Based on Starbucks data, Seoul had the most number of Starbucks branches worldwide in the year 2014. Seoul had 284 while New York City had 277 branches. Popular Korean coffee chains such as Caffe Bene, Hollys Coffee, and Angel-in-us have also expanded to other countries most especially in China, Singapore and South East Asian regions where Korean entertainment has been enjoying massive success.

South Korea is a haven for coffee lovers (and Kdramas are a testament to that)

According to Korea Contents Media, the number of stand-alone and coffee shop chains in South Korea has tripled from 12,400 to 49,600 from the year 2011 to 2014. This is a strong testament to anyone who loves to check out the latest cafés in this city. I am sure that watching all the Kdrama scenes shot at cafés made you curious and attentive to details. Let me remind you on some of the popular coffee shops that appeared in Kdramas.

1. Coffeesmith (It’s Okay, That’s love). In some scenes on It’s Okay, That’s Love, we see Running Man’s Lee Kwang-soo assisting customers at the counter and sometimes bickering with Lee Sung-kyung (Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo).

Lee Kwang Soo and Lee Sung Kyung on Kdrama It's Okay, That's Love

 2. Zoo Coffee (The Innocent Man). Four years before Descendants of the Sun aired, Song Joong-ki starred as Kang Ma-ru in the KBS drama The Innocent Man. On this scene, we see his co-star Moon Chae-won (Goodbye Mr. Black) sipping a cup of coffee while having a serious conversation with Lee Sang-yeob (Jang Ok Jung, Living by Love).

Moon Chae Won on Kdrama The Innocent Man

3. Mango Six Coffee & Dessert (The Heirs). Who would ever forget this café? Aside from The Heirs, Mango Six can also be seen on A Gentleman’s Dignity and Kill Me, Heal Me.

Lee Min ho on Kdrama The Heirs

4. dal.komm Coffee (Descendants of the Sun). Many scenes between Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo were shot here making it a familiar place to Descendants of the Sun fans. Some scenes on tvN’s hit drama Goblin were also shot at dal.komm.

Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo on Descendants of the Sun

Coffee shops and Aoiaro

How these scenes look so aesthetically inviting and homey at the same time, I do not exactly know. Sometimes, I just hit the pause button to marvel on that perfect place on the screen and wish that it is easily accessible.
Being the type of person who likes to stay at cafes myself, watching Korean dramas has impacted my personal coffee shop preferences. My experiences at cafes have always been paddling between love and hate. There are days when I come to one café greeted by the relaxing scent of coffee and the sight of a spacious, industrial-themed place with almost no people inside. On other days, I arrive armed with my heavy backpack and greeted by the loud laughter of one group seated on one corner. The annoyance is then escalated by the sad fact that there are no more seats available. I also found some cafés lacking in visual appeal, privacy, and good service. As a customer, I try to just shrug it all away and be considerate. But when a cup of coffee is priced too high and I am served a cup that tastes like it costs just a dollar, I’d rather brew myself an Americano at home.

Watching Korean dramas reminds me that cafés are still such lovely places to go. There is much more to be found. How these scenes look so aesthetically inviting and homey at the same time, I do not exactly know. Sometimes, I just hit the pause button to marvel on that perfect place on the screen and wish that it is easily accessible.

Cafés featured on Kdramas usually have these as their common denominator:

  1. Spacious
  2. High ceiling
  3. Staff wearing presentable and sometimes even cute uniform
  4. An inviting exterior design
  5. Clean and organized
  6. Less people
  7. Wooden chairs and tables
  8. Industrial look
  9. Minimalist
  10. Cluttered but pretty
  11. Relaxing background music (that is not too loud)

Having watched a vast number of coffee shop scenes on kdramas turned me into a customer who is also looking for those shops. To end this post, let me show you three cafés that I would definitely love to visit in Korea.

1. Blute Flower Cafe. Coffee and flowers, perfect combination! This is an ideal place for long catching up sessions with my girly friends. Of course, the long chit chat must end with us taking lots of IG-worthy pictures.

Blute Flower Cafe
Photo Credit: Blüte Flower Cafe

2. May Island Coffee and Library. Finding out about this place for the first time made me smile and think that this is where I could (finally) finish writing my book! As an aspiring author, I always need to have this certain level of privacy. Disturb me once and I’m probably just going to turn my laptop off and feel disappointed with myself for not finishing one chapter. It’s that hard. Someone take me to this cafe, please?

MAYISLAND Coffee & Library
Photo Credit: MAYISLAND Coffee & Library

3. Hoho Myoll. The name itself already invites me to transport to this quirky and whimsical place. This café is named after its owner’s classic Volkswagen and pet cat who is always present to greet customers. Aww! A vintage café with a Volks and a cat, kyeopta!

Hoho Myoll
Photo Credit: HB Company

I have opted to spend most of my writing time at home but being in South Korea might change that.

(AOIARO is a writer who is yet to find the perfect cafe for her imaginative needs. She keeps herself hushed about watching Korean dramas but writes her thoughts about them anyway. Follow her on Kdramapal for random, honest, and sometimes hilarious posts about your favorite Kdramas. Shoot her a shoutout at aoiaro@kdramapal.com, message us on our Facebook page, or comment on this post below.)

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