The instinct of the coffee is temptation.

Strong aroma is sweeter than wine, soft taste is more rapturous than kiss.

Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.

– CharlesMaurice de TalleyrandPérigord (1754 – 1838)

Most people would relate Asia with tea and tisane; however, coffee consumption in South Korea has been growing gradually over the past years. While the brew may be bitter, Koreans are definitely sweet on coffee. Koreans have adopted and adapted coffee as their own. While embracing the coffee culture, Koreans are turning it into something unique. And they love their coffee.

Some of the menu item at a Korean coffee shop will seem very familiar. Espresso, cappuccino, cafe latte and cafe mochas can be found in almost every cafe. But one of the hand’s down favorites for many Koreans is the Americano, a shot of espresso in hot water. Milder than espresso but with a bit more jolt than drip or percolated coffee, it’s the fuel for many Koreans as they get through their morning commute or power through an afternoon at the office.

Only a decade ago, finding real coffee in Korea was a challenge. Most people drank instant coffee, usually from pre-mixed packets. This was a good way to get a good jolt of caffeine, and can still be found in many offices in Korea. There are also many coffee vending machines even today, which for just a few hundred won will give you a small cup of steaming instant coffee. There are usually a couple of different choices, from “cream coffee” (milk, sugar, and coffee powder), “milk coffee” (milk and coffee powder, but no suger) to black but sweetened coffee. In addition, there are a few non-coffee choices, such as powdered job’s tears tea and cocoa. These machines have become almost nostalgic for many Koreans, as the rise of international and domestic coffee chains has made “standing coffee” less important.

In Korea, around 80 percent of coffee consumed is accounted by vending machines. There are about 350,000 vending machines across Korea selling coffee. Instant coffee is predominant in Korea, but coffee house are starting to push more and more consumers towards quality coffee. In Seoul, there are many coffee shops, which began to appear in major cities in the late 1990s, to choose from. Coffee drinkers in Korea love to spend time enjoying their coffee as well as socializing with the people around them.

Korean modernization has often meant westernization; the coffee has always been considered a symbol of being westernized. In this way, what coffee has given Koreans is something to put them in ‘the mood’, which is not only elegant and sophisticated, but also excited.

premium instant coffee mix

Starbucks VIA® vs Dong Suh Foods KANU / As the demand for high-quality coffee rises in Korea, premium instant coffee market has been expanding—launching new instant coffee brands for the home and office.

RTD; ready-to-drink coffeeRTD; ready-to-drink coffee in Korea / a packaged beverage in a prepared form, ready for consumption.


This is a post by David Report contributor Jaeuk Jung.

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