Dabang: Old Korean Coffee Shops
See & Do Tours
Walking along the streets of Seoul, visitors are sure to come across a huge number of cafes. And frequenting those cafes are people leisurely enjoying their coffee, studying, or meeting up with friends. A cafe has become so much more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee. In fact, cafes were never just a Western world concept. In Korea, small cafes existed in the form of dabang. Peaking around the 80s and literally meaning "a place to sell tea", dabang were old-style Korean tearooms which primarily served coffee. Like the modern cafes, dabang were places where people could go to hang out, philosophize, and share ideas with their peers. Embodying a bygone era, these nostalgic places can still be found well and alive, nestled within the modern city of Seoul.
2F, 119 Daehak-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
This shop has a very unique name. Meaning “Forest of Learning”, Hakrim Coffee Shop is found right next to Yeongeon Campus of Seoul National University. Stepping inside, one will feel that this place had escaped the passage of time with how it has managed to preserve its appearances.
Hakrim Coffee Shop continues to have a steady stream of customers. Most come for their famed Vienna coffee while others come for the old-time music playing in the background. It’s a place filled with memories and nostalgia.Known for their delicious coffee, Hakrim Coffee Shop even attracts the younger crowd. With their special way of roasting and brewing their coffee beans, the taste of their coffees is what people would describe as timeless.
2-4F, 16 Myeongdong 4-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
There was a time when this place sold a cup of Vienna coffee for 300 won. It was when other coffee shops sold their regular coffee at 80 won. Gamoo was also a place frequented by celebrities who came to flaunt their fame and power. With its luxurious atmosphere and its great view of the garden belonging to the Chinese Embassy next door, this place is a fancy little retreat hidden away from the busy streets of Myeongdong. Sipping a cup of Vienna coffee while viewing of the scenery is a perfect way to relax and unwind from the bustle of the city.
33 Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
The owners of this shop love tea so much, they roast their own tea leaves here.
Upon closer inspection of the name “Jidaebang”, one will find that it is made of two words. “Jidae” is a sack where monks carry their tools during their travel. Hence, “Jidaebang” is a room where the monks put down their “jidae”, their sacks full of traveling gears. Essentially, this name comes together to mean "a place you can rest".
As one of Insadong's traditional teahouses, Jidaebang first opened its door in the early 80s and was a place where people could easily stop by for a chat or a juicy piece of gossip. The current owner of Jidaebang, Lee Jong-gook, is the third owner to inherit this store.
72-1 Chungmu-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
Eulji Coffee Shop is located on the second floor of Eulji Myeonok. Newcomers might have a hard time trying to find this place in the surrounding maze of hardware stores. Step inside the stop and look closely at the counter to find a strange white box with plastic compartments and colorful pieces. It looks very much like a boardgame. However, that is the shop's menu board. Red chips stand for coffee while green chips stand for ssanghwacha.
During winter, many customers come to this shop looking for ssanghwacha, a type of herbal Korean black tea topped with egg yolk and nuts. Only old dabang are known to serve this special type of drink. Many aged visitors continue to frequent this shop, hoping to relive the past as they sip on their ssanghwacha.