Seoul loves coffee. Saying it like that is a bit of an understatement. At the end of last year, the number of coffee shops in Seoul surpassed 18,000, and the number is still rising! Seoul loves coffee! Starbucks alone has over a thousand locations in Seoul. The number of coffee shops exceeds the number of convenience stores and fried chicken restaurants combined, and let me tell you, Koreans love their fried chicken! In a city that has a population of ten million, there are approximately 18 shops per 10,000 people. That is more shops per capita than Seattle, Starbucks’ hometown, which has 15 shops per 10,000. Within two blocks of the first Airbnb where I stayed during my current trip to Seoul, there were nine different coffee shops, two of those being Starbucks, a block apart from each other. In 2016 alone, South Korea imported 159,260 tons of roasted and raw coffee beans, which are valued at about 720 billion Won (approximately 260 billion US dollars). Consumption of coffee per day is about 440 tons, and per-person yearly consumption is 348 cups. That means that pretty much every adult in Seoul is having a cup of coffee a day, but I have them beat with on average, three cups of coffee making their way into my diet every day. Drinking coffee is very social in Seoul, which explains the growth in popularity and the extended hours that shops normally keep. The Starbucks I’m sitting in as I write this post is open from 7:00am-11:00pm every day of the week. As a self- identified coffee addict (yes, I know I have a problem) I am thankful that I can access a cup of coffee at almost every hour of the day. Seoul definitely loves its coffee.
Seoul also loves unique cafes! There is a meerkat cafe, a raccoon café, a Charlie Brown café and a poop themed café to name a few interesting ones. Some of these cafes are just trends, but some also stand the test of time. One of the current trends in Korean coffee shops that I find very odd is shops that are dedicated to selling hotdogs and coffee. There is even a hotdog/coffee shop located in the Olympic Park where the 1988 summer Olympics were held. Seoul really likes to ride out trends. Just a few months ago Churro shops were all the rage, and now there really aren’t many to be found. Coffee shops aren’t strangers to this type of business. Although there are over 18,000 shops in Seoul, only 55.6 percent of those shops make it past the twelve-month mark. This isn’t as much of a problem for the major chains like Starbucks, Holly Coffee, A Twosome Place, Tom N Toms, and Ediya Coffee as it is for smaller chains and mom and pop stores. It isn’t certain that a coffee shop you saw a year ago will be there, but it is certain that you will be able to get your caffeine fix in Seoul.