Korea has so many café and beverage chains that it has become a fun challenge for tourists to attempt ticking all of them off their checklist.
I personally have a checklist to keep track of what I have tried before, but if it’s your first time in Korea, how do you know which ones are worth trying, and what should you order?
Hence, I created a guide to these chains. This is not an exhaustive list, and of course is really dependent on my personal taste preferences, but I think I have a pretty common/acceptable palate, so yeah HAHA.
I’ll also update this as and when I try new stuff, so bookmark this page and check back often!
A Twosome Place
A Twosome Place, is a coffeehouse chain based in South Korea and owned by the CJ Foodville of CJ Group. As of 2014, the coffee chain had over 500 retail stores in South Korea.
You can find this coffee chain almost everywhere in Korea, although I would think it’s more prevalent in Seoul (correct me if I’m wrong). The coffee wasn’t super memorable, but I did like this Chili Sausage Baguette Sandwich.
They are more famous for their cakes though, and they did look pretty nice but I wasn’t planning on eating cakes after touching down – will try them next time!
Caffè Pascucci is an Italian coffee house chain, with branches in over 25 countries.
An Italian coffee chain surely serves good coffee, but what I really want to share is their fantastic bingsu, which is really as good as Sulbing’s.
They really don’t scrimp on the ingredients, and I testify that eating this is a very good way to refresh yourself in the unbearably hot summer.
The only downside is that this café is not as common in Korea (at least, from my experience), so you probably have to do some research if you want to find one of these.
Must-try: Bingsu (summer)
I’m not a big fan of Dunkin Donuts’ coffee, but of course their donuts are quite, well, unbeatable.
I think most of them are quite standard offerings, so if you want to spend your calories on something unique, go for the specials, such as these ones with LINE characters (printed on chocolate).
One of these will set you back by about SGD2 – slightly pricey, but I think still worth trying!
Must-try: Korea-exclusive donuts
Ediya Coffee is a coffeehouse chain based in South Korea. As of 2013, the chain has over 1,000 retail stores in South Korea. Ediya opened the 1st Shop in front of Chung-Ang University in 2001. In September 2016, According to the reports, Ediya Coffee opened its 2,000th shop in Singal in Yongin.
This is another café chain that you will find everywhere. Literally every district, and every neighbourhood has an Ediya.
If you are heading to Korea in winter, my recommendations are definitely the chocolate and mocha drinks. Their white chocolate is amazingly good – sweet and hot enough to warm you on the inside, yet not so cloying that you feel like you’re hopping on a train to diabetes.
Must-try: Chocolate & mocha drinks
Gong cha is probably not new to many of us, but Korea’s version is seriously a game-changer.
Personally, I think their hot teas are generally all very good. Their iced offerings can get a little too sweet (I order 50% sugar every time), so I recommend you order 25% instead.
The downside: Gong cha in Korea is more expensive than what we are used to (at least, in SG). I think the prices of some offerings are definitely worth it, though you may want to stick to drinking the more ‘conventional’ beverages in your home country instead.
Must-try: Hot earl grey milk tea
I was so mad to find out that Happy Lemon used to have franchises in Singapore, but were closed down. As much as I love lemon tea, I never thought that it could taste so good that I would get hooked on it.
The Happy Lemon store next to Skypark Central Myeongdong is our personal must-visit, because they have so many different ways of enjoying lemon tea that you never can get sick of it.
I highly, highly recommend their lemon teas – served cold if you want something refreshing, hot if you need a drink to keep an oncoming cold/flu away.
Must-try: Lemon black tea
Hollys Coffee is a specialty coffee company headquartered in South Korea. Its shops offer espresso, coffee, tea, coffee- and tea-based cold and hot specialty drinks, a variety of pastries and other snacks, and coffee supplies.
I was never hooked onto iced mint chocolate – not until I had a taste of Hollys Coffee’s!
I tried the hot version of this in 2017, but didn’t like it very much. Fast forward to 2018: I ordered it again, but the iced version this time round. It was a fantastic combo that I’ve tried to find in many other places, but nothing comes even remotely close.
Plus, I love the small, lovely touches that Hollys Coffee provides. All our drinks came with cookies, and you can see that mine is shaped like a Christmas tree (because Xmas season) – so cute!
Must-try: Iced mint choco
If you feel guilty about all that tea and coffee you are drinking everyday, you can always switch things up with fruit juice from what is possibly the biggest juice chain in Korea – Juicy!
I strongly recommend trying this out, especially in summer when the heat gets unbearable while you shop. However, I can’t guarantee that your experience with Juicy will be the same at every store.
Must-try: Mango juice
I first saw this café in Heirs, and it was then that I decided to mark this down on my Korea checklist.
Granted, Mangosix is more famous for their mango offerings, but I simply couldn’t resist getting milk tea. Sometimes I feel that coffee is a little too ‘overblown’ in Korea – if you really notice, the locals usually stick to Americano.
Mangosix’s milk tea is surprisingly good, almost as good as any other bubble (boba) tea shop’s, just sans bubbles. I’m not too big a fan of their coffee though.
Must-try: Iced milk tea
These drinks and coffees in Korea actually aren’t cheap, even though they are truly omnipresent. There are 2 notable exceptions: Paik’s Coffee, and Mega Coffee.
Mega Coffee serves truly GIGANTIC drinks. They are not even kidding when they label their beverages as ‘BIG SIZE 2 SHOT’, because these are really about double the size of your average drink.
The price, however, is not even double. You can easily get one of these for about 3000 won (SGD4), and it still costs less than your bubble tea in SG. Amazing.
I do suggest, however, that you don’t drink so much coffee (you would be seriously in danger for caffeine poisoning) and instead opt for their Ades.
Probably one of the most famous chains on this list, Paik’s Coffee is also probably my favourite.
You will find a Paik’s Coffee almost anywhere, especially in areas where the young crowd hangs out. Why? For 1 simple reason: its low prices!
Paik’s Coffee is seriously unbeatable when you factor in the convenient locations, extensive menu, low prices, and the good quality & taste. I can’t even find anything bad to comment on this chain, and I foresee that it will definitely continue to be popular among the student population.
Must-try: Green grape flower tea (summer)
Another one of my personal top favourites, Paris Baguette is a café chain that you will find everywhere, and I really mean everywhere.
The difference between this and Paik’s Coffee is that you can have a complete meal here and enjoy the ambience, while the latter is really more of a buy-and-go stall.
The coffees here are so-so, a little watered-down sometimes, but the pastries and cakes here are a WHOLE DIFFERENT LEVEL. Believe me, I can’t even get enough of this back in Singapore – the only thing stopping me is the expensive prices.
When you have so much variety and cafés to benchmark against, it becomes glaringly obvious that Korea’s Starbucks pales in comparison by a huge margin.
You get mostly the same offerings as any other Starbucks around the world, with the occasional seasonal specials, which I frankly wasn’t a fan of.
Sulbing is widely recognized as the chain that started the bingsu craze, so you can’t say you’ve eaten bingsu in Korea if it doesn’t include Sulbing.
It’s extremely popular even with the locals, and it’s not hard to see why. They are super creative, and super generous with their bingsu offerings. Their Yogurt Tong Tong Melon Sulbing is the most famous, and one that you definitely need to try for yourself.
You can also look out for their seasonal specials, the most common being watermelon and peach in summer.
Must-try: Yogurt Tong Tong Melon Sulbing
Its Wikipedia page classifies it as a French-Asian bakery, so I highly recommend that you check out their pastries.
Their coffee is okay – I would say about the same level as Paris Baguette?The difference is that Tous Les Jours branches are much less prevalent, but it’s definitely not to say that they are super hard to find: it just means you are more likely to bump into a PB than a TLJ 😂
Must-try: Milk Cream Cornet