Caffe Artigiano is a Vancouver based chain started by multiple award winning barista champion, Sammy Piccolo. Since then he’s sold the business and shifted focus to his 49th Parallel coffee roastery. I’ve never had the chance to try their Canadian shops, which are certainly worth visiting, but I have been to their two locations here in Korea.
UPDATE: Check out JT’s comment below for a correction and a more detailed summary of Artigiano’s origin as well as the founders’ current projects.
UPDATE 2: As of April 2010, I think their espresso is back on track. Visited their Gwanghwamun shop and had a nice tasting double.
UPDATE 3: It looks like the tiny Gwanghwamun shop has been closed, leaving only the Gosok Terminal location.
Their Gosok Terminal cafe had one of the first good espressso shots I found in Seoul back in 2008. They were using Intelligentsia beans around that time, and the walls were decorated with hundreds of empty Intelli bags. Unfortunately, due to the construction of subway line 9, their nicely appointed, spacious location was moved to a hallway corner just outside the Shinsegae foodcourt that houses Paul Basset’s cafe.
I’ve been to Caffe Artigiano at Gosok Terminal a number of times since they changed locations and noticed that their espresso quality has suffered quite a bit; it’s not as consistent as before, though I have had a couple of good shots amidst the bad ones. I’d still give them a go if you’re curious, or if Paul Basset’s cafe just around the corner is too crowded. Maybe they’re just in the process of training new staff or something. Given their reputation and past performance I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Caffe Artigiano also has a little booth near Gwanghwamun. This spot is just big enough for a 4 group espresso machine and a La Marzocco Swift automatic grinder/doser/tamper, which I believe they’re also using at the larger store. Hopefully they’ll invest in training their staff or hiring qualified baristas rather than relying on equipment. If I were to speculate, I’d guess that given the originally good espresso, maybe they just haven’t kept things well calibrated.
If you do visit one of their shops, let me know how your experience was. I’ll happily amend this post if things improve.
I always get lost here, but if you get yourself into the Shinsegae B1 level food court, it’s in one of the hallways just outside. It’s got a lot of curtains, look for that.
Exit 7 from Gwanghwamun station and head East. (If I recall, that means you need to turn around when you exit, and then make a right). Walk for 5 minutes, past a Twosome Place, and it’ll be on your right – it’s tiny and easy to walk past, so keep your eyes open.