De Chocolate (chain, multiple locations)

hello again!

with a regular plain latte at Caffè Fiorè on a foggy day in the Emerald City, i re-start this blog. actually, the fog has been almost perpetual since i got back from Korea a few days ago. all fog… and a forecast of no rain for four more days… very strange. i want my Seattle rain! because i was in Korea, i haven’t seen rain in two months… how depressing. but we did have some great snowstorms there. and i did check out even more cafés and went back to some old favorites. anyway, i had a little detour from my planned schedule of frequent postings, but i plan to remedy that starting today! and to start my Korean café reviews anew, i present to you De Chocolate.

De Chocolate is a small chain as Korean chains go. I think they are trying to go more upscale and exclusive rather than the “be everywhere” model that Caffé Bene has. If you look at their website (as of January 2013), they have just over 15 stores. So, they expanded little by little as I lived there, looking for the right places for new stores instead of just saturating the market through money and star promotions. I’ve only been to four of their locations:  Apgujeong, Gangnam, Seohyeon, and Unjung-dong.

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But wait, what about that name? “De Chocolate” means “out of chocolate” in Spanish. What kind of name is that for a café? Well, if you’ve read my other postings, it’s a really appealing name for me! 🙂 The name alone practically makes it an automatic 5 stars. You see, they specialize in chocolate as much as coffee. Go into any store and you’ll see a large flat-panel TV (well, by now, 99% of TVs in Korea are flat-panel I think lol) showing their process of making chocolate, as well as advertisements. And their menu and their pastry counter shows their dedication to chocolate as well.

Seohyeon De Chocolate interior, December 2010
Seohyeon De Chocolate counter and menu, December 2010

So my first time at a De Chocolate was actually with a friend and his friend at the Apgujeong location. It was right around the corner from the Caffé Bene. It had a really nice layout, with wood and stone and artwork and open space between the 1st and 2nd floors. Since we were socializing, I didn’t focus on the coffee or the menu much at the time. And, sadly, my friend’s friend accidentally dropped my camera there, so I had to make do with a substitute for a few months. But De Chocoalte left a positive impression, so I gladly went to try it again a few months later, this time just outside Gangnam station.

Iced mocha at Gangnam De Chocolate, October 2010
Iced mocha at Gangnam De Chocolate, October 2010

But it was a nice and sunny October day, so I got it to go instead of staying inside. Gotta take advantage of the very pleasant fall weather in Korea! I went to Cheonggyecheon to read books (In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah and Harry Potter 4) and enjoy the atmosphere and the passers-by with my iced mocha. Which was good as iced mochas go. ^^

Don’t freak out, but here’s a nice picture of a dragonfly that I took that day:

Dragonfly in the grass along Cheonggyecheon, October 2010
Dragonfly in the grass along Cheonggyecheon, October 2010

And a view of people enjoying the stream:

Cheonggyecheon, October 2010
Cheonggyecheon, October 2010

De Chocolate’s slogan is actually “a touch of nature” so this scenery is highly appropriate for drinking with one of their mochas.

The Gangnam De Chocolate was actually a 2nd floor location (but it’s no longer there), so here is a view of Gangnam’s busy street in December:

View of main Gangnam street from De Chocolate Coffee, December 2010
View of main Gangnam street from De Chocolate Coffee, December 2010

At this point, I still hadn’t actually visited De Chocolate that much. But in late December, driving around Bundang, I discovered a really nice-looking De Chocolate in its own building and just away from the main hustle and bustle. It was very close to the super-busy Seohyeon station on the Bundang Line, but also really close to a forested hilly area. I called it “rural-ish” in my journal. This location had its own unique architecture and a very airy and cozy interior.

Seohyeon De Chocolate, December 2010
Seohyeon De Chocolate, December 2010
Seohyeon De Chocolate interior (2nd floor)
Seohyeon De Chocolate interior (2nd floor)
Seohyeon De Chocolate interior (1st floor)
Seohyeon De Chocolate interior (1st floor)

It was a Sunday afternoon, the day after Christmas, and I had lots of time to relax and experiment. So I sat down and ordered coffee and a cake! A little post-Christmas treat. 🙂

Chocola Tarte and Vanilla Black Cappuccino at Seohyeon De Chocolate Coffee, December 2010
Chocola Tarte and Vanilla Black Cappuccino at Seohyeon De Chocolate Coffee, December 2010

The coffee was a Vanilla Black Cappuccino, and the cake… well, chocolate of course. A Chocola Tarte which I really enjoyed. See?:

Close-up of Chocola Tarte at De Chocolate
Close-up of Chocola Tarte at De Chocolate

The HDTV above the counter had really appealing pictures of some of their drinks and desserts. I was caffeinated enough at the moment, so for now here is their picture of a Choco Presso:

Choco Presso display
Choco Presso display

One drawback to De Chocolate, though. No wi-fi! I wasn’t used to that in Korea, so I was trying to figure out what was going on on my laptop and my relatively new iPhone. Two girls next to me were also having problems, so I asked them about it. They both had iPhones, and after a while, one of them was kind enough to lend me a cord and show me how to do Internet tethering, so that my laptop could receive the Internet through 3G! That was a neat trick at the time, and I was thankful to those friendly girls to show me how it worked. I was also thankful to my cell phone company, KT Show (now called olleh); I think US cell phone companies don’t allow tethering without exorbitant charges?

I so enjoyed this time at Seohyeon De Chocolate that I ended up returning fairly often, especially that winter. I also discovered a De Chocolate in Unjung-dong, a new development area on the west side of Pangyo, partway up the mountains west of Bundang. It was in a new café street which was probably modeled after the Jukjeon café street. It was also beside a pleasant stream, but unlike Jukjeon, it was still pretty devoid of people. So, a great place to go if you want to escape the crowds of Seoul and have great coffee and desserts. But not great if you’re trying to escape my semi-empty neighborhood.

So, here are some more pictures from both Unjung-dong and Seohyeon De Chocolates. A few of them are during a snowstorm making for beautiful scenery and a great refuge.

Unidentified drink at De Chocolate in Unjung-dong, January 2011
Unidentified drink at De Chocolate in Unjung-dong, January 2011
Choco Presso at De Chocolate in Seohyeon, January 2011
Choco Presso at De Chocolate in Seohyeon, January 2011
De Chocolate in Seohyeon in the snow, January 2011
De Chocolate in Seohyeon in the snow, January 2011
Snowy scene from Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene from Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene from Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene from Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene from Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene from Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene from Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene from Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene at Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene at Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene in park beside Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Snowy scene in park beside Seohyeon De Chocolate, January 2011
Choco Presso at De Chocolate in Unjung-dong, February 2011
Choco Presso at De Chocolate in Unjung-dong, February 2011
Finished Choco Presso at De Chocolate in Unjung-dong, February 2011
Finished Choco Presso at De Chocolate in Unjung-dong, February 2011
On a warm spring day, my laptop beside the balcony at Seohyeon De Chocolate, May 2011
On a warm spring day, my laptop beside the balcony at Seohyeon De Chocolate, May 2011

A few more notes about De Chocolate in Seohyeon. If you looked closely at the pictures, you might have noticed the banner talking about a jazz concert! Unfortunately, I never went, but that sounds pretty cool. This location also has valet parking. Hmmm, a little pretentious for a coffee shop to have valet parking, but like I said at the beginning, they seem to be trying to appear upscale.

Finally, I went back to the Apgujeong branch a few weeks ago, and I snapped this picture of interesting artwork:

Artwork in De Chocolate in Apgujeong, December 2012
Artwork in De Chocolate in Apgujeong, December 2012

I also was pleasantly surprised to see a sign advertising a foreigner discount. Not sure if this was just this branch, but I definitely took advantage of it. Feel bad for Koreans though, that’s a little unfair! But I guess it eases the pain of having to pay a fee for exchanging money.

So, overall, I really like De Chocolate. Lack of wi-fi is a bit of a problem as I don’t always want to tether, for example if I have a low battery. But great coffee, and great desserts.

Website:  http://www.dechocolatecoffee.co.kr

Final verdict:  ****

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