The Paper Company Cafe 종이다방 Magwondong- Seoul

Cafes are constantly sprouting up everywhere in Seoul. I recently came across a photo of a new café

on Instagram that I knew I just HAD to visit. Sometimes a cafe looks better on Instagram than it does in real life. Thankfully, The Paper Company Cafe is not one of these.

The Paper Company is situated in Mangwon-dong. The name was chosen when the owner recommended a book, “종이 약국”, which, when translated into English is, “The Paper Pharmacy”, to someone at the cafe. The book, originally published under the name, “Das Lavendelzimmer”, is about a Monsieur Jean Perdu aboard his canal boat, the Literary Apothecary, moored on the Seine. People visit him from far and wide to soothe their troubles through his recommended reads. Monsieur Perdu has the uncanny knack of finding a book that will hit the nail on the head for each of his visitors. Where a book can be regarded as “medicine to the reader”, hence the name “paper pharmacy”, so too The Paper Café Company in Mangwon-dong is a place of hush and healing. In-between serving customers and grinding coffee beans, the cafe owner herself can be spotted nestled at a wooden table reading a book.

On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers. –

This cafe really appealed to me as it reminded me a lot of one of my favourite cafes, Vovo Telo, back at home in South Africa. Vovo Telo started out it in a charmingly restored home in a newly gentrified area. Its start-up was simple and humble – there were no menus, no cash till, no visible pricing, a few wooden mismatched tables and chairs, and the bread was all freshly artisanally baked. Fast-forward 10 years and that very cafe has been bought by one of South Africa’s biggest food groups, and is now franchised all over South Africa. Anyway, back to today’s cafe, The Paper Company. Walking in to the Mangwon-dong cafe brought back nostalgic feelings from the early Vovo Telo days. Wooden tables, wooden floors, limited bespoke-ish menu and the refreshing very hands on approach

Finding the cafe is quite a challenge as it is located off the beaten track. (Which is just how I like a cafe to be.) There is no signage to indicate exactly where the cafe is, leaving you feeling like you are in the prohibition era and trying to find an illegal bar… I asked the gelato cafe across the road for directions and they pointed me to the building on the corner. The Paper Company is located on the second floor. It has only three items on the menu, with the signature item being the Paper Latte. This drink is made using freshly ground coffee beans (prepared per cup), brewed in a Moka pot with condensed milk and ice added, creating an almost bespoke vibe about your cup of coffee. The second option is the moka pot coffee available using Brazilian, Costa Rican or Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans.

The third option is hand drip coffee using Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Costa Rican or Columbian beans. The focus for the hand drip is the flavour, “You can smell both acacia and jasmine. You can taste a little bit of  dried fruits”

The atmosphere is calm and quiet, not quite like that of a library, but more like a library would wish to be. This is certainly not a place for a group of loud waygooks (the Korean term for foreigner) to go and catch up on their Itaewon gossip… More for the refined cafe goer who prefers to take a book or a podcast to listen to through on headphones. Usually, I love a good loud chatter (I have been known to sometimes laugh louder than what is socially acceptable), but on this particular day, my family and I had been really stressed and rushing around Seoul. (My dad took ill and had to see a doctor while my parents were visiting me for the Chuseok vacation). So, to enter the serene, calm cafe was JUST the medicine that we needed. In fact, the reason the owner started this cafe was to provide an alternative to the uncomfortable chairs and small table space at many cafes, providing instead a comfortable place conducive to quiet study and work (and reading healing books!).

I absolutely adore the aesthetics of the cafe. It’s tastefully decorated in neutrals, creams, beiges and coffee tones. A GORGEOUS shaggy haired Golden Doodle dog, “Bok-hee” lay spread out across the wooden floor.  The pooch perfectly matched the colour palette.

Tables and chairs are all wooden and some have unique carvings and stamps on them saying “Made in India”, and I would only but love to know their story of how they landed up in a second storey building in Mangwon-dong, Seoul.

**I highly recommend no cameras with loud shutter noise or loud ‘waygooks’. SO, best you remember to use your “inside voice”, and enjoy the calm and restorative space. PS – don’t forget to take your book with you.

Trading hours:
Monday: 12:00 – 22:00
Wednesday to Friday: 12:00- 22:00
Weekend: 12:00- 22:00

Location: 2F, 415-34 Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu.
The Paper Company’s Instagram: