While it’s probably not likely that coffee will phase out tea drinking completely, it sure is giving the genteel beverage a good challenge. Think of the countries we used to associate with tea houses and the tea culture. Surely, but not so slowly, they’re becoming areas of growing coffee demand. Great Britain, India, Japan, China, Vietnam… and now, South Korea, have seen the popularity of coffee take phenomenal leaps.
The Korea Herald today reported on a Coffee School in Seoul which mirrors the phenomenal growth. From 2006 until this year the number of students seeking to become baristas grew from 158 to 25,000! Even with the growth in per capita consumption growing at the rate of ten percent, that’s a lot of baristas for a small country, especially one already saturated with big chains. In the past twenty-five years, there has been plenty of room for coffee demand growth in South Korea. At that time, all one could get in shops was instant coffee.
Now, it’s the specialty coffee prepared with personal attention that has the Koreans hooked. They want higher quality and no assembly line coffee shops. One example is pictured above. In this shop, the high quality beans are roasted by hand. The coffees are hand-dipped - except for the latte drink also offered. Even with the high number of coffee shop competitors, this shop stands out for its high quality and micro-roasting and brewing. Koreans also are familiar with Kopi Luwak, produced in the region and still the highest priced coffee around. The baristas remain unimpressed, because it appears the delicacy has been corrupted.
The supply is outpacing the production, indicating not all of it is the real thing, regardless of what the label states. Choi Seong-il, the coffee school owner, doesn’t understand the Kopi Luwak hype, as he likes his coffee simple so he can taste the flavor, without additives of any kind - not even sugar, but especially not civet digestive residues. It is true that Vietnamese Kopi Luwak is a synthesized form, not the “real” thing, but it’s unclear how the delicacy is being mis-labeled. With all the producers in Korea’s neighborhood, it’s understandable there are some disreputable local brands. All CoffeeKind brands are from reputable producers and the synthetic brands are clearly labeled. You can rest assured your CoffeeKind coffees are what they’re promised to be.
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