Coffee Gangnam Style


Imagine a place that has such a large number of coffee places that its' government is considering to implement laws and regulations for a minimum distance between each of them.

Imagine a place where a takeaway cup from a specific coffee place counts as a status symbol.

Welcome to South Korea.

South Korea was one of the last cultures to get accustomed to coffee as we know it. The first time coffee was registered in South Korea was in 1895. Antoinette Sonntag, the German sister-in-law of the Russian Ambassador, served a brewed coffee to King Gojong during his visit. Apparently, he was so amazed by her filter coffee that he initiated the opening of the first coffee bar in the heart of Seoul.

His expectations did not match his people though. South Korea was a tea-loving country at the time, and quite warily before trying new specialties. Therefore this coffee bar had to close its doors shortly after.

What followed was a long dry period in terms of coffee. If there was coffee at all, it was for tourists or foreign military that was stationed in South Korea. Coffee was almost irrelevant for the Koreans. This only changed with the first opening of a Starbucks in 1999. This was the initiation of one of the most impressive coffee conquests any country ever witnessed.


Every Korean has consumed 500 cups of coffee on average 2016.

In the last 20 years the annual consumption of coffee has reached an amount of 657,000 tons per year. In other words: Every Korean has consumed 500 cups of Coffee on average in year 2016. This surreal development shows again that coffee can have a societal power that goes beyond only being a caffeinated drink. It has become a major side effect when you regard the political development in the country. The pro-western attitude is being reflected in the huge increase of Starbucks shops all over the country, but especially in Seoul.

Also, and more interestingly, latte art is being used to express political opinions. For a long time, it was a famous phenomenon to draw the profile of Kim Jong-Un on different types of coffee.

In case you did not expect all this, you might have listened better in the past. Remember South Koreas most famous music export Psy? In his Mega-Hit “Gangnam Style” from 2011 he already glorifies Coffee, claiming he is being a real Man because he drinks a cup of coffee in one gulp, and mentioning that a lady with class knows how to enjoy her coffee. Word!