It occupies a space no bigger than the bedroom at my parents house way back home but Little Nap Coffee Stand, behind Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, Japan is cute, charming and chill. Oh yeh, it’s also got pretty good coffee. Which is interesting given that its location is where you’re more likely to find kids playing in the street than the overwhelming culture bomb at Harajuku, a mere 15 minutes away by foot through Yoyogi Park.
But that’s awesome because it’s a recurring theme when you’re on the coffee trail in Tokyo. Get off at some random station, walk 10 minutes through the backstreets, find an empty coffee shop that somehow, despite seemingly being near no one, has people coming through it.
Reputation is everything and without it shops wither and die. It’s glad to see that Little Nap had a queue of what seemed regulars by the time I left.
Venturing to Little Nap taught me one thing. Coffee in Tokyo is not all piss and wine filtered through the cushions of an abandoned couch from the 1970′s. There’s good coffee everywhere hidden in plain site. It just requires a bit of clever research to uncover. It also helps to avoid Doutor Coffee.
Getting a coffee shop right should be an easy trade. Small space, espresso machine, stock their own bean brand no ones heard of, fancy branding and open whenever you like. So why is it in Korea most coffee shop has an identical modern fit-out, is open 24 hours and is large enough to seat the population a small pacific nation?
The answer is consortiums. They run them all. So finding one with the above traits, an independent coffee shop that ‘you know care’™, in the main youth area of Hongdae is surprisingly tricky. Luckily Coffee Libre is there to get my hole in the wall take away fix.
Open since 2011, the renovated herbal medicine shop off the main area of Hongdae serves as the cafe of, I’m not quite sure really, an emerging empire much in the vain of Streamer? Coffee Libres’ roastery and head office are located nearby is what I’m trying to say. It’s small but you can tell there is a love of coffee here and shows in their participation of almost every coffee related event in Korea in the last 3 years.
Knowledgable on aeropress, which is a supreme rarity in these parts, freshly ground beans and a lack of soy milk speaks volumes really for the appreciation of coffee the staff at Coffee Libre hold. Only three items are on the menu, Espresso, Americano and Cafe Latte all reasonably priced at ₩4000. Iced Lattes are cardinal during Seouls humids summer.
Well worth going out of your way and doubly worth finding it. Check out Coffee Libre if you’re in Seoul.
© 2014 Carey Ciuro