BUSAN, South Korea -- South Korea's cities are overrun with cafés. According to the Samsung Economic Research Institute, the number of coffee shops here jumped from about 6,000 in 2008 to 9,400 in 2011. Other studies put the number as high as 17,000 in Seoul alone. There are so many coffee shops in the South Korean capital that the Fair Trade Commission set a limit on the distance between new coffeehouse chains to at least 500 meters.
In addition to Starbucks, which is run by Shinsegae, 40 percent of the nation's cafés are run by the top five Korean brands: Caffe Bene, Hollys Coffee, Ediya Coffee, Angel-in-us and Tom n' Toms.
A common complaint amongst both expats and an increasing number of Koreans is that chain coffee is cheaply roasted, weak in strength and lacking in taste. This is driving Korea's coffeeholics to seek out better alternatives in smaller roasting companies and independent cafés.
Considering that last year 63 percent of the coffee consumed in Korea was dispersed from a powdery packet, it will take time for a stampede to rush towards indie coffee shops. Even Jay Song has her doubts.
The simple fact is that price is, sometimes, more important than taste.
Continue reading "Some coffee in Korea is not that of connoisseurs: busan edition with Jay Song" »