Even if you’re already familiar with K-culture, it may come as a surprise to you that Koreans are huge coffee fanatics! In fact, it’s estimated that there are over 75,000 coffee shops across the country 😱 If this doesn’t prove their love for coffee, Koreans are the largest consumer of instant coffee and iced americano is such a norm that they’ve shortened it to ah-ah (아아), short for 아이스 아메리카노.
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With this coffee addiction, coffee shops are opening left and right so there has to be a way for them to differentiate themselves from one another. So in come the very aesthetic, interactive, or simply delicious coffee. Sometimes this results in baristas coming up with their own unique coffee drink, and it just so happens that you’ll find a lot of these creations in one city of Seoul. That’s Gangneung, which you may have (virtually) been there with this TMI article here. Gangneung is known as the “coffee mecca” of Korea from the many VERY skilled coffee baristas, considered the best in Korea, opening up their coffee shops here. So let’s take a look at some of the most unique coffees I’ve come across.
Soft Tofu Coffee
Okay, soft tofu and coffee is a weird mix upon first hearing it, right? But if you get past the idea, soft tofu can create a really fluffy or even creamy texture to any dish. Which is why Koreans have incorporated it into dumplings, and even Tiramisu (check out the recipe here). So soft tofu in coffee may not be weird after all! At Do You Miss Cafe, they make the perfect texture by first releasing all of the tofu’s moisture (which takes 3 hours 😮). Then, they combine cream and sugar to create their optimal ratio. This also balances out the soybean-y taste. Once they’ve poured in the espresso, that’s when they top it off with this soft tofu cream. I would say that this is less of a guilty pleasure as it's got more protein than any other coffees out there 😉
Potato Ongsimi Coffee
Ongsimi is a potato dough soup, a variety of sujebi (수제비) or hand torn noodle soup. It’s also Gangneung’s local delicacy! Seems like another odd mix, but the texture is kind of like tapioca pearls that you can find in boba milk tea which is ever-so-addicting. I can’t imagine the ongsimi and coffee combo would be gross. In fact, the owner of Mother Coffee, took inspiration from ‘brown sugar milk tea’! With freshly extracted espresso, potato cream and ongsimi, this is basically the Korean version of boba milk tea 😂 If you love potato, you can also try Mother Coffee’s potato-looking Potato Cheese Bread too!
Nurungi Cream Latte
For me, a meal is not complete without rice so Chodang Coffee sounds like it’ll be totally up my alley. The owner actually opened up a coffee shop in what was a rice mill before. Thus, all their menu items incorporates rice in one way or the other, like the Nurungi Cream Latte 🍚 If you don’t know what nurungi is, it’s basically scorched rice. When you boil rice, there’s usually a thin crust that forms at the bottom of the rice cooker. If you let it continue to cook, it starts to crisp up and becomes what Koreans call nurungi. With the Nurungi Cream Latte, milk and coffee are poured over ice and topped with 12 mixed grain-cream to give a savoury nutty flavour. Finally, a sprinkle of nurungi to deepen the flavour, give texture and excite your taste buds!
These three are already a little bit out of my usual palette, but I can always trust Koreans to come up with delicious fusion recipes. These coffees are just some examples, there are more you can find in Gangneung like Corn Coffee, Injeolmi Einspenner or even Pepper Coffee. If you LOVE coffee and are travelling to Korea soon, definitely add Gangneung to your list. Just lurking through some of these coffee shops, not only do their coffee look amazing, but the food they prepare with it seems to be a match made in heaven 😋