The Coffee Queen Of South Korea

The coffee queen of South Korea
Image courtesy of Euro News | Meet the coffee queen of South Koea Choi Geum Jeong owner of the Coffee Cupper in Gangneung South Korea

South Korea is not only popular to K-dramas, K-pop, and fashion trends, but the city is also known for its thriving love for coffee.

Gangneung located on the East Coast of South Korea sits a street of about 30 coffee shops overlooking the scenic Anmok Beach that are prepared to host foreign athletes, tourists, visitors and coffee aficionados.

One of the cafe owners in the area is Choi Geum Jeong who started her modern-day coffee shop in 2001 and helped shape the area to what has now become known as “Gangneung Coffee Street.”

“Gangneung is the coffee capital of Korea,” said her worker Carol Song inside “Coffee Cupper” near Anmok Beach.

Inside Choi’s coffee shop is her own coffee sanctuary where she prepared specialty coffee and her signature Ethiopian cup of coffee called Chelba.It’s raspberry-flavored with a floral aroma that has a warm, sweet taste that’s comforting for one of the coldest winters to hit the country.

“We have our own way of brewing coffee,” said Choi “I love coffee very much and the beach was so beautiful, but there was no such place to sit and drink coffee,” she added.

Inside Coffee Cupper Coffee Shop
Photo courtesy of Coffee Cupper

The area is famous for tourist and young couples because of the Anmok beach, and the coffee was good and relatively cheap selling only at around 100 won (0.09 in US Dollar).

The area had already coffee shops establish during the 90’s, but it wasn’t until 2001 that the area received its first modern coffee shop, and that was “Coffee Cupper” owned by Ms. Choi. Coffee cupper was the first ever coffee shop in Gangneung to import coffee beans from over 10 countries, including the United States but mostly from Brazil, Colombia, and Guatemala.

The city had its first coffee festival in 2009, and it’s become an annual tradition.

Bohemian Roasters’ owner Park I Chu said he started his first coffee shop in Seoul in 1988, but it wasn’t until 2002 that he expanded to Gangneung.

“The coffee shop became widely spread. Gangneung became a coffee city. A lot of tourists came to Gangneung for coffee,” Choi said.

Choi Geum Jeong want’s to expand her endeavor in coffee whereas she also dreams to start growing coffee beans in South Korea with the first coffee farm in Gangneung. But it is difficult to cultivate coffee trees in Gangneung because of the very cold climate, so it’s been easier for her to import them.

The coffee street in Gangneung South Korea near Anmok Beach
Photo courtesy of Imagine Your Korea | The coffee street in Gangneung South Korea near Anmok Beach

Coffee beans are better fit to grow in the province of Gyeongsang where there are roughly 100 coffee farms and on Jeju Island which has about 10, Yi explained.

Choi brought over coffee trees from Jeju Island and started her own coffee farm, but it’s not enough to supply the demand so she continues to import internationally.

Twenty years ago, Choi set out to not just create a coffee cafe chain but also a museum teaching the history of coffee that’s attached to it. She has a total of six cafes in Gangneung, including two coffee cafes and museums, two cafes along the beach and one in Mengshi, China. She’s now hoping to expand to Venice, Italy.

Choi said it’s not just about the taste for her patrons but also for them to leave off with some knowledge of the history and culture of coffee.

View deck of coffee cupper overlooking Anmok Beach
Photo courtesy of Coffee Cupper Kr

In building Choi’s coffee museum she started collecting coffee machines from different parts of the world and that helped the idea for a museum to join the coffee café.

“Where it was barren, I was the first one who cultivated the coffee tree, built the coffee museum and built the coffee shop along the beach,” she said.

Sitting in front of the entrance of her new café and museum along Coastal Street, Choi greets some visitors.

“In Korea, people call me the coffee queen,” she said, laughing.

Choi’s caters to many foreign visitors especially during Winter Olympics where it was held in Gangneung Choi’s coffee shops attract more visitors in the area.

Source: Euro News