I’ve been keeping an eye out for good coffee on the northeast side of Seoul, but so far I’d only been able to find Star City’s Star Kitchen and Lotte Mall’s Cantata kiosk, which are above average, but nothing to go out of your way for. Then I came across a post at Jihye Chang’s blog about Choi Ga Cafe, a coffee shop and roaster around Konkuk University, and dropped by after work to check it out.
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Choi Ga’s wood clad entrance makes you feel like you’re visiting a home that’s been turned into a cafe. It’s an unassuming space that’s been decorated creatively; if I were a student at Konkuk, I might stop in here to focus on some reading.
The owner, Mr. Choi, was there when I visited and he was nice enough to talk about the coffees and share a few while we sat at the counter. He roasts his own coffee and offers a range of origins from around the world at different roast levels printed in the menu. We had two Yirgacheffes (one hand dripped through a cloth filter, one via Siphon), and a Sumatra Iskandar poured over cloth filter. I found the first Yirgacheffe to be a bit too roasty for my tastes, while the second was a bit more interesting with some acidity showing through. A lot of Korean roasters hew to old school Japanese and Korean taste profiles that favor a less acidic, more burnt caramel or butterscotch note in their coffee.
The Sumatra Iskandar, while also a bit darker roasted than I typically like, was a real treat. The Iskandar is a high quality coffee distributed by Hacienda La Minita of Costa Rica, who oversee its production in Indonesia. In the cup it was very sweet with a mild acidity present as it cooled. An enjoyable cup of coffee, I bought 100g to brew at work this week (while not burnt-tasting, the profile is dark enough that the fresh beans I bought were a bit oily — I wish it would have been a slightly lighter roast).
While there we also tried something Mr. Choi had been playing around with – a heated cold filtered ‘dutch coffee.’ Typically served chilled, when warmed up it smelled alcoholic and tasted like Guiness or a strong chocolatey stout beer. While not something I would order myself, it was quite interesting to try! If you’re adventurous, try ordering one, I’m not sure it’s even on the menu.
Despite a slightly darker roast than I prefer, I enjoyed the Iskandar a lot. If you’re around Konkuk, I don’t know of any better cafe worth visiting.
Go to Konkuk University station (where the light 3 and dark green 7 lines meet). Head out exit #2 and make a left, walk straight for a minute until you see a diagonal side street (or the Rainbow Glasses sign) and head up that road, it’ll be on your left.
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