My friend Nora took Mary and I on a super exciting trip for my birthday back in January. Up first was a stop at Greem Café, also known as that instagrammable cartoon café in Korea.
We ordered breakfast and drinks and everything was lovely. We got two free mugs because we ordered a certain amount, but I was a little disappointed that they weren’t the mugs that were being used in the cafe. (I would have paid extra for one of those 2D mugs.)
My advice would be to go when they open, as once they get busy, your instagram shots are going to be harder to take since you can’t roam around the cafe.
Where does a barista go for good coffee? Well, technically I go to Starbucks by my work most mornings and get a grande iced blonde roast latte with an extra shot (whew!) unless there’s an interesting seasonal drink. It’s not my fault, really: café culture here tends to start at 11am and end pretty late, much different than the 7am starts and 7pm closes I’m accustomed to!
On the weekends, you can find me at Coffee Class, a bright and inviting coffee shop not too far from where I live. They have your usual fare: lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, green tea lattes, and they also have manual hand drip (pour-over) coffee.
I have enjoyed their Costa Rican Asoporaaa Valverde Abarca Natural (notes of dark chocolate and lime), a Nicaragua whose information I didn’t catch but tasted of milk chocolate and raspberry, and an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Lalissa Natural GI that was like a green grape explosion in my mouth. My only issue is that they do their pour-overs a little differently than how I was trained, and stir the coffee after it blooms. The average coffee drinker is not going to notice the difference, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t either.
Today I had their tiramisu and it was lovely. They offer waffles and some other light fare and pastries which they bake in-house. The aesthetic is bright and airy with fun cat silhouette pillows and in the center of the café are several small round tables on small pebbles, almost giving it a café-on-the-beach vibe.
They get bonus points for always having beautiful latte art.
Situated north of the downtown cluster of Uijeongbu cafés (of which there are enough to caffeinate a modestly-sized writing group), and next to a beautiful park, is the Orange Elephant café.
When my friend and I visited, there were no other guests in the café. Our drinks came out promptly and the café staff were very accommodating, even though they mentioned that they did not have any available outlets to charge electronics. (So make sure you’re juiced before heading their way!) The sunlight filtered in the windows at just the right angle to warm the Saturday morning. There is a display of locally crafted goodies, from rings to notebooks.
If you’re planning on visiting, make sure to come Tuesday-Saturday, as they are closed on Sunday and Monday.
Back in October, I had the amazing opportunity to visit La Colombe’s Philadelphia roastery and their Fishtown cafe with a few of my co-workers.
Please click on individual images to see descriptions!
Upon entering the roastery, we had to put on hair nets. First, we got to see some green coffee. “Green coffee” is coffee that has yet to be roasted. It’s got a unique green hue and comes to the roaster in large burlap bags. (I asked, out of curiosity, what happens to said burlap bags, and those get recycled in various ways.)
Then we checked out the Workshop station! Workshop coffees are usually single-origin coffees and are roasted in much smaller batches than the Cornerstone coffees, which are blends. (The big exceptions to this are the -Towns, e.g. Frogtown.) The Workshop coffees are placed in beige bags and boxes for retail, whereas Cornerstone coffees are in red/blue bags and boxes.
Next up was the Cornerstone roaster, which compared to the Workshop one, was a beast. Internal temperatures in the roaster can reach up to and beyond 385°F, so it’s important that the cooling tray moves fast so the beans can cool down evenly. La Colombe does not only roast coffee for its cafes, but also the entirety of its wholesale business, so your favorite cafe in Houston just might be brewin’ up a cup of Corsica!
After we viewed the rest of the roastery and got to watch as boxes were labeled and prepped for delivery, we headed over to the Fishtown cafe. It’s the largest cafe and comes with a full food and drink menu along with selling a variety of La Colombe merch. They make their pastries in house, and I had some amazing French Toast with a dirty chai (one of the latest company offerings!). It’s a full service cafe, but the first thing that I noticed was that they have oat milk located on the bar for guests to use. I hope more cafes will have alternative milks readily available, because it can be annoying to have to bug a busy barista for the oat milk.
While chowing down, we got to chat with several La Colombe employees, including one of the founders, Todd Carmichael.
His passion for coffee really comes through and he is a super interesting guy. If you’re interested, he had his own show on the Travel Channel called “Dangerous Grounds” and you can watch it here.
Before we left, they popped open two cans of the then-newest offering from La Colombe: Hard Cold Brew Coffee. While I enjoyed it, I don’t think I could drink a full one.
It was a fascinating experience and thank you to all who helped! (Special shout-out to Ali!)
One of my earliest memories is of my paternal grandmother drinking a coffee-like substance out of a tiny china cup. Apparently, she would let me take sips of whatever it was she was drinking, coffee or tea. I was primed for a love of coffee early on.
Like many others, I first started really drinking coffee in
college. It started out with visits to Starbucks for caramel macchiato breaks
from studying but didn’t really grow from there until a few years later when I
became a regular at Dunkin’ Donuts. (Sometimes they would have my medium-iced-coffee-cream-and-sugar
ready for me when I reached the register.)
In 2014, as manager of a small grocery store/sandwich shop,
I invited a small coffee roaster to come by the store and offer individual pour-overs
as well as bags of coffee beans for sale. I was given a free pour-over and was
mesmerized by the experience of it. And then I didn’t know what to do. Because
here I had this amazing, fresh cup of Colombian coffee, and I thought it rude
to go dump half and half in it. And so, I drank it straight, black. It wasn’t
as bad as I thought.
My coffee experience has taken me from Peet’s to Blue Bottle
to La Colombe and a few other places we won’t mention here. I have spent hours
in training, trying to get my milk the correct temperature and the right
consistency. I’ve wasted at least two cow’s worth of milk trying to perfect my
rosetta. I’ve spilled coffee on at least one customer and myself, frequently. My
index finger is permanently encrusted with espresso dust and I sometimes find
coffee beans in my shoes.
Even though I’m leaving the world of coffee for education,
coffee will always be a part of my life and I look forward to taking you along
with me as I visit cafes all over Korea!