Zoo Coffee (chain, multiple locations)

Unfortunately, there aren’t many wild animals around the Seoul area, not even small ones. Coming from Seattle, I’m used to a large assortment of birds (robins, sparrows, bald eagles, hummingbirds, blue herons, peregrine falcons), squirrels, and raccoons, and occasionally a coyote or a wolf or a bear will lumber into town. And of course we have salmon in our streams and a few orca pods (families) in Puget Sound. But in Korea, I only saw a very few types of birds in the populated areas, most prominently magpies. Tigers are around only in myths and in the zoos. But still, Koreans do love nature and wildlife. They are avid hikers and love their forested mountains, which are covered in secondary growth after being decimated during the Korean War for subsistence [related article I found later]. So many Koreans, especially young Korean women, have dogs. These are micro-dogs, mind you, suitable for apartment living and carrying around and being cute. As such, certain entrepreneurs must have realized the love of nature prevalent in their country, and decided to combine it with coffee! Such is how I surmise Zoo Coffee must have been born.

Being close to my friend’s apartment in Suji, Zoo Coffee is one of the first cafés I went to. It was actually quite a nice place, with stuffed animals around, and a fancy lit backdrop of a zoo scene. Comfortable seating too, although too much space was devoted to the smoking section. Ah yes, the smoking section. So many Korean men (and some women, though they tend to hide it) smoke that many coffee shops provide them with special separately-ventilated rooms so they can smoke with their coffee without disturbing us non-addicted folk. Not having drunk many coffees yet, I thought, okay, this coffee (*mocha*) is all right. My friend and I decided that this Zoo Coffee would be our hangout place whenever I was in his part of town.

Over time, however, I tried many more cafés, and Zoo Coffee seemed, well, mediocre. The locations were nice enough, and the zoo concept is great, but the coffee, when you compare it to the plethora of other places around, is not all that great. Sorry, Zoo Coffee, you get only two stars.

Zoo Coffee in Suji, street view courtesy Naver Maps (http://maps.naver.com)
The backdrop at Zoo Coffee in Suji, April 2010

Website:  http://www.zoo-coffee.com

Final verdict:  **

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