11 Apr Coffee Lab
Seoul’s Hongdae neighborhood is absolutely saturated with coffee shops of every kind. From the gimmicky cat cafes to cheap 24 hour study chains, there is no shortage of space to stop and drink your fill, but here at the Coffee Chaser we are interested in quality and the first shop that comes to mind in Hongdae is Coffee Lab. Granted we are not the only one to feel this way, so why review it all? We have visited Coffee Lab and it’s little brother Coffee Lab Express, more than any other cafe in Seoul. It’s the deliciously smooth espresso which showed Laura that coffee doesn’t have to be bitter.
If you do decide to stick around, please appreciate how bare the white painted walls are relative to the tornado of vinyl stickers and posters from 1300k.com or gmarket.com found in many Korean coffee shops. For me, Coffee Lab is a very peaceful place where your eyes can relax away from the visual noise of the city. Also, put your hands on the bottom of the tables: they are covered in a layer of packing foam to diffuse sound! A genius touch to making an otherwise echoing cafe an oasis.
For decoration, Coffee lab has a flock of portafilters hanging from the ceiling and a wall of plaques documenting the accomplishments of their baristas. I don’t read too much into certifications because the proof is in the coffee.:My espresso has always been sweet and smooth and my milk steaming into a thick whorl.
Like any cafe in Seoul, the prices are fairly expensive. The macchiato you would get in the US for $2.50 is about $5 and a latte is $5.50. However, if you don’t care about soaking up the dim and minimal atmosphere, there is a $2 discount on takeout and a considerably cheaper Express location closer to Hongdae’s main drag. I’m pretty sure they send their best baristas to the Express location because I have never had a drink that has been less than excellent.
In contrast to their in-house drinks, Coffee Lab’s whole beans are incredibly cheap at $12 for 200g. They tend to be a little darker than I usually like, but I know for a fact that their espresso blends are very good and their signature Mad Scientist blend is very nice as well. they do espresso well enough that I’m looking forward to brewing some of their other beans on my own.
Atmosphere: Minimal, Serene
Beans: Roasted Seoul, South Korea
Take line 2 to Hongik University Station (Hongdae)
Exit out of Exit 8 and take immediate right
Turn left at first roundabout
Turn right at second roundabout
Walk for about 5 minutes; Coffee Lab will be on the left-hand side