Coffee 1 Cup – Gyedong Coffee (Anguk/Bukchon)

The next café to review is kind of an anomaly. It was often closed when I tried to go. It changed names, and then it changed concepts. It’s kind of a dabang, but not really. But the coffee? Oh, the coffee is good. Let’s start at the beginning…

Coffee 1 Cup in Bucheon-dong, unfortunately closed on Mondays, August 2010
Coffee 1 Cup in Bucheon-dong, unfortunately closed on Mondays, August 2010

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First things first. How did I find out about Coffee 1 Cup (or, more properly, 커피한잔 {keopihanjan})? The Internet! The wonderful World Wide Web that we all take for granted now, but can still surprise us from time to time, and is pretty amazing really, especially if you remember the time before the World Wide Web, as I do. 😀 But I digress. Sometime in the summer of 2010, probably on a stifling hot July evening, I was thinking about coffee. And I went looking for good coffee. Outside? No! Too hot, lol. On the temperature-neutral World Wide Web. And I found this page, The History of Coffee in Korea, on the website Seoul Eats. The individual who wrote this considered Coffee 1 Cup to have “The best [coffee] that I’ve had in the city”! Bold words! So I made it a mission to go check it out.

So I made a plan to go visit Coffee 1 Cup (커피한잔) one Monday evening late that August. I even made it part of one of my official “Coffee Cravings” that I have 3 times each summer and winter where I invite everyone in whatever metropolitan area I’m in to meet up for coffee. At the time, Coffee 1 Cup in Anguk/Bukchon was a little bit of a hike for me, so I was anticipating it even more. But, sadly, unexpectedly, it turned out when I arrived that it was closed on Mondays. The rumored best coffee in the city would have to wait.

Coffee 1 Cup times sign... closed on Mondays, having fun :-P ; August 2010
Coffee 1 Cup times sign… closed on Mondays, having fun 😛 ; August 2010

So in October I had some time to go up to Anguk and Bukchon again. This time I made sure I went on a non-Monday; in this case, Tuesday! But, I was foiled again! And for some unknown reason, since I couldn’t read the Korean sign with the explanation…

Coffee 1 Cup, closed again, October 2010
Coffee 1 Cup, closed again, October 2010

Sad. Oh well.

So on a Thursday early in December, I decided to give it another shot. And, luckily, the third time was the charm. Coffee 1 Cup was open! And it had a live jazz show! And I had my awesome new camera (the Sony) with me to take some awesome pictures! (and video). I was still getting the hang of the camera, so here is one shot with flash and one without…

Coffee 1 Cup interior, December 2010
Coffee 1 Cup interior, December 2010
Coffee 1 Cup interior, December 2010
Coffee 1 Cup interior, December 2010

The café turned out to be small. It was full and it looked like there wasn’t room to sit, especially with the band right in the middle, but there was an open spot. I arrived right during the jazz show’s break. Other guests were friendly and curious. The music was really enjoyable, and the band even played good versions of songs I don’t care for. They even played the Brazilian song Manhã de Carnaval, but they called it Black Orpheus.

Jazz band performing at Coffee 1 Cup, December 2010
Jazz band performing at Coffee 1 Cup, December 2010
Jazz band performing at Coffee 1 Cup, December 2010
Jazz band performing at Coffee 1 Cup, December 2010

In these pictures, you can also get a feel for the place. It’s decorated with a rustic interior, with shelves of books and music and doodads all around. Seoul Eats even noted the chandelier made out of rainbow colored straws.

Coffee 1 Cup interior, December 2010
Coffee 1 Cup interior, December 2010

Yes, my picture is overexposed here. Go to Seoul Eats for a better picture of the straw chandelier. 😉

And the coffee? Guess what? Even though it was my first time at Coffee 1 Cup, I decided not to get a mocha, my standard first time drink. Nope, since I had read good things about the place and had high expectations, I went with straight black coffee, which at the time I didn’t really care for that much. Guess what? Totally worth it.

Delicious Brazilian coffee at Coffee 1 Cup, December 2010
Delicious Brazilian coffee at Coffee 1 Cup, December 2010

Even though it was plain milk-less un-lattefied coffee, I really enjoyed it. It was really good! I ordered a Brazilian coffee. And I enjoyed every sip, along with the music and the atmosphere.

Old book binding machine at Coffee 1 Cup, December 2010
Old book binding machine at Coffee 1 Cup, December 2010

As I was leaving, I got a message that a friend’s baby was born! ^^ So overall, it was a very memorable night.

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So after that great experience at Coffee 1 Cup, I was eager to go again, and particularly to show it off to some friends. So I went again two months later, with three friends in tow. There was no band this time, and it was daytime anyway. And a little surprise here. Coffee 1 Cup (커피한잔) had changed its name! It was now Gyedong Coffee (계동커피 {gyedongkeopi}). So why the funny name? Actually, it took me a while to realize it, but the neighborhood (dong) that this café is technically in is called Gye-dong. It seems so obvious, no? But Korean neighborhoods, like Korean first names but not as much, tend to have two syllables. Guess the one syllable (Gye) here threw me off, plus the fact that I thought it was Anguk or Bukchon. Anyway, so now they’re named after their neighborhood. Nice. And yes, the coffee was just as good, and the interior just as cool. My friends really had a good time, and again, the other patrons there were pretty open and friendly. Here are three pictures from that day:

Gyedong Coffee display, February 2011
Gyedong Coffee display, February 2011
Kyedong Coffee, February 2011
Gyedong Coffee, February 2011
Gyedong Coffee menu, February 2011
Gyedong Coffee menu, February 2011

Delicious coffee in a great café for under $5. Not bad!

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Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go there again before I left Korea in 2012. Well, maybe I went once but didn’t take note of it. But now in 2013 I’m back in Korea, and I passed a few months ago. To my great surprise, when I looked in the window, it had turned into a knitting café or something of the sort. So, I was kinda disappointed at the change in concept, because it had been a pretty cool place the way it was before. I’m sure some people will enjoy the knitting, but not me. It’s possible this was a one day thing going on… so I’ll double-check when I can and update accordingly.

Ah, and as for being a dabang? It’s a spurious claim by Seoul Eats, as Koreans I’ve talked to about Gyedong Coffee say that no, it’s not a dabang. What’s a dabang?, you may wonder. Well……. from what I’ve gathered, it’s kind of a shady old style café where guys could go to to be served substandard coffee by pretty girls, and have conversations with them. Nothing more than that (usually… I hope). But they are a disappearing breed of café in Korea. Actually, I don’t think I’ve seen one in Seoul proper. But I have seen a few near my old neighborhood (in Yongin) and near my new neighborhood’s subway station (in Bucheon) too. Every single one was underground! Someday I’ll be brave and go to one, definitely with a friend. Not sure if that friend should be a girl or a guy. Maybe both, haha. Anyway, Seoul Eats may be right in saying that Coffee 1 Cup (now Gyedong Coffee) was a tribute to a dabang. But to then say “this dabang…” …no. It’s not. There’s no creepy psuedo-couple action going on there. (Or maybe there is now with the knitting…?…). It’s not underground, and the coffee is excellent. It’s what every dabang wishes it could be.

Gyedong Coffee is off the beaten track, but definitely worth a visit! (assuming it hasn’t become a knitting café).

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Website:  http://blog.naver.com/kedongcoffee

Here’s a link to a Google Map to find Gyedong Coffee.

Final verdict:  *****

(this is based on the times I went, and not the potential current incarnation as a knitting café)

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[May 2017 VIDEO UPDATE!

As I’ve now created a YouTube account specifically for CaféSeaSeo videos, I can now link to the two videos I took that night in December 2010:]

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