South Korea is famous for a great many things; Fried Chicken, Korean BBQ, Soju, A demilitarized zone with 100,000 active troops ready to blow each other up over a misunderstanding. What it isn’t famous for is a thriving coffee culture. Which is a little strange, not because much of the country is still jittery from its northern neighbours, but because if you were to walk down any street in Seoul you’re likely to walk past about a dozen uniquely named cafes and more than a dozen coffee chains.
So Anthracite in Hapjeong, Seoul is pleasantly distinct in its difference.
The crisscrossed timber frame on the roof is understandably on display just as much as the paintings and design scattered on the walls. It’s like everyone’s dream New York open plan loft was gutted and you just invited people to sit around and drink coffee.
Built inside a retired shoe factory the space it presents is vast by any other comparison. You could run a game of futsal on the second floor dining area if you removed all the wooden lounge chairs and black steel framed tables and that coffee pot hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room. Why is that even there?
The ground floor of Anthracite houses the register, kitchen and roasting area. Perhaps the most unique roasting room I’ve ever seen as the owners kept the rubber conveyor belt in the factory and turned it into a table for its coffee school and viewing area. I don’t know if they turn that conveyor belt on but a sushi-train style coffee shop is an idea I’m thinking of patenting. Back off my ideas okay?
Coffee is great, one of the best I’ve had in Seoul but pricey at ₩6000 for a hot café latte. The Cranberry Scone (₩3000) was also a pretty good compliment but I get the feeling my late English grandmother would highly disapprove of a Korean scone. Sorry Grandma.
It perhaps works against itself that cafés in Korea aim to have a well designed sense of style and modern fit outs. Everything is different but everything is the same, kind of like snowflakes and fingerprints. Korean police would be well served having a catalog of every café in Seoul.
Interestingly the name of the cafe comes from a black, common mineral, not actually mined by South Korea, but by the North in large numbers perhaps ironically stands out among all that other commonality. Bit strange but pleasant.
© 2017 Carey Ciuro