Fritz Coffee Company – Seoul
When the Etihad Boeing landed its wheels on the Incheon airport runway in Seoul, South Korea, my luggage and I arrived along with ALL my misconceived thoughts and ideas on Asia. (I had based my thoughts and views on Asia, solely on what I had read and heard about China.) Yes, I’ll openly admit this. How embarrassing. I find myself still cringing as I write.
I had always scoffed at people who think that the WHOLE of Africa is comprised of a single country where all its inhabitants are dressed in hide loincloths, and where home is a mud hut, and one’s wake up call is a roaring lion!
But, here I was, doing the exact same thing to Asia. Let me just stop the lorry right here, it is so not the case! (But, I’m forgetting, you already knew that!) Although I have not visited China, the main land, I have visited Hong Kong, and I have been to South Korea, and they are VASTLY different. So, I quickly learnt that Asia does not just equal China. The culture is completely different! So too are the trends. I had also always been told that Korea is this homogenous place. Well, to me, Seoul was like Cape Town’s City Bowl on CRACK – so many creatives, styles, hair trends, and personas were evident.
I soon fell utterly in love with Seoul partly because of its people, and partly because of its mammoth variety of coffee on offer. Here again, I had preconceived ideas. Asia equals tea, right? WRONG.
Seoul is an epicentre of coffee, its shockwaves of trendy caffeine radiating out of its perimeters.
Obviously tea is, and always will be, a well loved beverage in South Korea, but the coffee industry is BUZZING!
I couldn’t think of a better way to experience this culture in Seoul then to go to the heart of the source, and the expert of the source.
Cue: Enter, the South Korean barista champion of 2014, Geun Ha Park…
I have yet to meet a more humble and kind expert of anything! Passion for coffee and quality coffee literally exude from this man’s pores. He has a calm, winsome presence about him that helps me understand how he could have become a National barista champion.
GeunHa and a group of other equally passionate coffee crew have made their mark in the neighbourhood of Mapo-gu in Seoul.
En route, I sashayed my way through hordes of bankers who were all smartly suited up and spilling out of the offices towers on their lunch break.
Distracted by the multitude of stylish and dapper business dudes, I got lost!
I mustered up the courage to stop one of them, and showed him the address on my phone… He hadn’t been there yet… How could he not have been to Fritz coffee co?!! I spotted it online whilst in South Africa, and couldn’t wait to visit!! Anyway, he kindly directed me to carry on walking, and gave me a sweet smile. (Koreans might not always be able to speak English, but their kindness sure makes up for any language barriers!!!)
I found the way to the Korean mansion that’s been converted into a very creative coffee spot filled with antique furniture, a darkly lit space with beautiful silk lanterns juxtaposed against steel bean grinders and sturdy wooden chairs. Old world Korean meets new world third wave coffee…
Focus is not just placed on pretty décor, or good coffee… but on both. It is rare to find a place that gets it right with both, and have a knowledgeable team! This isn’t a place for you to get a quick mediocre coffee and not be impacted. The beans are roasted in-house and the choices of single origins are vast. The brew methods a plenty! On my first visit I tried a pour over… the second visit was during the cold of winter so a mocha was a definite. The mocha was a rich concoction with the perfect balance of espresso and chocolate and a surprising subtle spicy after taste.
For me, no cup of coffee is complete without a side treat. Here again, I was not left disappointed. A bakery display, larger than average, offered a good selection of both traditional French pastries as well as Korean pastries. I liked this a lot! Offering international food, but also using local traditions and offering something local hit my sweet spot. I may have tried more than a couple of pastries. (I chalked it off to research?!) My favourite was the delectable pain au chocolate (which was as good as the one I enjoyed while in Paris) and a flakey dough tartlet filled with maron berries and custard textured filling.
See the interview I had with GeunHa Park below, as well as more pictures from the cafe.
I left with a smile on my face, and warmth in my heart. Not only had I experienced great coffee, but kind Korean hospitality, too.
If you want to fully absorb the soul of Seoul in Winter, you will need to have experienced at least one can of hot Royal Milk tea, a bubbling bowl of kimchi jigggae, forgotten your gloves at your airbnb (more than once) and found refuge from the cold air in one of the many local and non franchised coffee shops.
179-9 Dohwa-dong Mapo-gu, Seoul
서울시 마포구 도화동 179-9, Seoul, Korea