club Espresso (Buamdong)

Somewhere in Seoul, there is a place that is near the clouds and is far away from the noise and the bustle that characterizes the city of 10 million souls. It’s a breezy neighborhood, an artsy neighborhood, a hidden neighborhood one might even say. * It doesn’t have a metro station! And many longtime Seoul citizens are unfamiliar with it. It’s a place to go to relax, to hike, to breathe fresh air, and to drink good coffee. My friends, welcome to Buamdong.

At the top of a Buamdong side hill, the view of the mountains, November 2011
At the top of a Buamdong side hill, the view of the mountains, November 2011

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*and i did in my post about Tully’s

Buamdong (more precisely Buam-dong, or “Buam neighborhood”) is actually quite near to the center of Seoul. As the kkachi flies, it’s a short 2 kilometers (1.3 miles) from Gwanghwamun (the main gate of Gyeongbokgung) in the center of Seoul to Changuimun (the Northwest Gate of the Fortress Wall of Seoul), which serves as an entrance to Buamdong. But it’s out of the way to the northwest of the palace, and a climb of almost 300 feet. Except for the first time, I’ve almost always walked there. It’s a beautiful walk when the weather is nice, as Bukagsan (Bugak Mountain) is constantly to your right, and you see its ripples and different faces and the colors of its many trees as you make your way up. And if you look to the left, you can look down at a neighborhood and, eventually, look back at a panoramic view of Seoul.

On the way to Buamdong, a view of Bugaksan, November 2011
On the way to Buamdong, a view of Bugaksan, November 2011
On the alternate special route to Buamdong, a panorama of Bugaksan, the neighborhood beside it, Jongro, and Namsan, November 2011
On the alternate special route to Buamdong, a panorama of Bugaksan, the neighborhood beside it, Jongro, and Namsan, November 2011
On the alternate special route to Buamdong, a view back to Seoul and Namsan, November 2011
On the alternate special route to Buamdong, a view back to downtown Seoul and Namsan, November 2011
at the entrance to Buamdong, November 2011
Looking up to Changuimun at the entrance to Buamdong, November 2011

Once you arrive at the entrance to Buamdong (elevation 400 feet), you have two choices. Keep going up (to elev. 585 feet or beyond) or down (to elev. 300 feet), or stop for awesome coffee! Well, I guess that’s three choices, technically, but there’s a choice within a choice. But even if  you choose the easy choice (coffee 🙂 ), you still have many difficult choices! For at club Espresso, the café right at the entrance to Buamdong, you will find an extensive bounty of coffees and beans to choose from.

Club Espresso in Buamdong (Sony DSC-HX5V version), November 2010
Club Espresso in Buamdong (Sony DSC-HX5V version), November 2010
Club Espresso in Buamdong (iPhone 4 version), November 2010
Club Espresso in Buamdong (iPhone 4 version), November 2010

On my first trip to club Espresso, I had just gotten both a new camera and a new cell phone, as explained in my Cameras page. So as you can see above, I was busy taking a lot of comparison shots! (Also, the picture of my iPhone 4 on the Cameras page was taken here). Anyway, I was also glad simply to have made it to Buamdong this time, as earlier in the month I got lost. I can’t remember if a friend had recommended club Espresso to me or not, or it just stood out. But in any case, it’s very a obvious café because it’s the first building on the right as you enter Buamdong! Let’s go inside, shall we?

Coffee beans from many countries for sale in Club Espresso, November 2010
Coffee beans from many countries for sale in Club Espresso, November 2010
Coffee beans from many countries for sale in Club Espresso, November 2010
Coffee beans from many countries for sale in Club Espresso, November 2010
Cozy seating in Club Espresso, November 2010
Cozy seating in Club Espresso, November 2010

Brick, and wood, and coffee. It’s quite a cozy place. And yes, my backpack’s label says “Seattle”. Seattle represent! And if you look closely (click or touch to enlarge!), you’ll see that club Espresso takes its bean selection seriously. You don’t just find beans from Ethiopia, they had at least four different beans from Ethiopia on display. By now, as I write this in February 2014, the concept of single-origin coffee is booming in Korea, but in 2010, it was still kind of niche. But club Espresso emphasized it quite prominently with huge displays upstairs and downstairs. Yup, they know their coffee; they’ve been around since 1990! That’s before even Starbucks started booming in Seattle and the USA, heralding the current worldwide coffee renaissance.

Anyway, it was time to sit down and relax. By now you know what I must have ordered, right? A café mocha because it was my first time there? Wrong!

Caffe latte and brownie at Club Espresso, Sony DSC-HX5V version, November 2010
Cafe latte and brownie at Club Espresso, Sony DSC-HX5V version (with flash), November 2010
Caffe latte and brownie at Club Espresso, iPhone 4 version, November 2010
Cafe latte and brownie at Club Espresso, iPhone 4 version, November 2010

A café latte! But I had a good reason for this… I also ordered a delicious brownie and didn’t want *too* much chocolate at one sitting. I’m sure I enjoyed both but can’t give more detail as I seem to have been very busy those days, so my journal literally just said “Buamdong, first visit to Club Espresso”. So good thing I took a good pictorial record. Actually, even today I was still a little surprised at how different those two pictures turned out, but I just realized that the camera version used flash. That surprises me because I literally have the flash off 99% of the time with that camera, as it takes such awesome low light pictures. But since it was my first day using it, I just didn’t know at the time, and so the flash went off. But I digress…

Cute baby over the division in Club Espresso, November 2010
Cute baby over the division in Club Espresso, November 2010

Aha! That’s quite a distraction from my camera analysis. What a cute kid. Even the babies are happy to be at club Espresso. ^^

So about an hour after arriving, and after enjoying a great coffee and dessert, I decided to explore some more. club Espresso has an expansive upstairs roasting area, with even larger displays of beans than downstairs. Check it out:

Organic coffee from Perú at Club Espresso, November 2010
Organic coffee from Perú at Club Espresso, November 2010
Coffee beans from around the world at Club Espresso, November 2010
Coffee beans from around the world at Club Espresso, November 2010
One wall at Club Espresso looks like an apothecary, November 2010
One wall at Club Espresso looks like an apothecary, November 2010
Coffee beans from around the world at Club Espresso, November 2010
Coffee beans from around the world at Club Espresso, November 2010

Yeah, it’s a coffee-lover’s mini-heaven. Each part of the coffee-growing world represented, and detailed descriptions of each country and its coffee. Or maybe just the coffee. If I could read Korean well, I could tell you exactly. 😉

I left shortly thereafter, happy to find a new awesome place in one of my favorite neighborhoods of Seoul. It was nighttime now, so I explored Buamdong a little more and took my first night pictures with the new camera. The full moon was out. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a picture of the full moon? So I tried, and my first attempts were over-exposed or blurry. But finally I got the right setting, and voilà…

The full moon from Buamdong, November 2010
The full moon from Buamdong, November 2010

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My next visit to club Espresso wasn’t until almost a year later. Yeah, it takes time to get there from my old semi-rural neighborhood of Cheongdeok-dong. But it was a nice and sunny autumn day, and a great day to get out and hiking and exploring. The pictures at the top of this page are from this day in November 2011. And here are some more from that day and others to get more of a feel for Buamdong:

View of Buamdong street, November 2011
View of Buamdong street, November 2011
At the top of a Buamdong side hill, a panorama, November 2011
At the top of a Buamdong side hill, a panorama, November 2011
Heading down from Buamdong, a view of downtown Seoul and Namsan, November 2011
Heading down from Buamdong, a view of downtown Seoul and Namsan, November 2011
Sunset from Buamdong, May 2013
Sunset from Buamdong, May 2013
Hidden garden behind Buamdong, November 2013
Hidden garden behind Buamdong, November 2013
Water path beside the hidden garden behind Buamdong, looking towards Pyeongchang-dong and Bukhansan, November 2013
Water path beside the hidden garden behind Buamdong, looking towards Pyeongchang-dong and Bukhansan, November 2013

Hmmm, I seem to have a penchant for visiting Buamdong in November. Anyway, back to the November 2011 visit. After a few hours getting to and wandering around Buamdong, it was time to stop at Club Espresso.

With Club Espresso across the street, Buamdong cats relax in front of a restaurant, November 2011
With Club Espresso across the street, Buamdong cats relax in front of a restaurant, November 2011

I again explored the store a bit for a few minutes before sitting down…

Inside Club Espresso, a cool coffee-themed t-shirt, November 2011
Inside Club Espresso, a cool coffee-themed t-shirt, November 2011
Inside Club Espresso, a range of coffee bean colors, November 2011
Inside Club Espresso, a range of coffee bean colors, November 2011
Inside Club Espresso, Perú Cepi Café, November 2011
Inside Club Espresso, Perú Cepi Café, November 2011

And then I ordered a…

At Club Espresso, a chocolate coffee drink called a...?, November 2011
At Club Espresso, a chocolate coffee drink called a…?, November 2011

Hmmm. I’m not sure exactly what it is. In Picasa I labeled it as a mocha, whereas in my journal I called it a “chocopresso”, which seems to me to be a drink from De Chocolate. But on club Espresso’s online menu there is neither. There is a “cafe chocolano”, which would be my closest guess, but the menu could have also changed in 2 years and a few months. Well, let’s call it a café chocolano. I certainly enjoyed it, regardless of the name, and studied a bit of Korean with it.

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I didn’t wait another year for my next visit. Just before the start of spring, when the weather starts to turn spectacular, I returned to the club. This time, instead of diligently working on preparing my school lessons, I seemed to be procrastinating and doing a study in colors:

Iced mocha at Club Espresso in Buamdong, March 2012
Iced mocha at Club Espresso in Buamdong, March 2012
Iced mocha at Club Espresso in Buamdong, March 2012
Iced mocha at Club Espresso in Buamdong, March 2012
Iced mocha at Club Espresso in Buamdong, March 2012
Iced mocha at Club Espresso in Buamdong, March 2012
Iced mocha at Club Espresso in Buamdong (HDR), March 2012
Iced mocha at Club Espresso in Buamdong (HDR), March 2012

I eventually did stop taking pictures of this iced mocha and actually drank it. It had a bit too much whipped cream for my taste but it was still tasty and refreshing. But it did help the colors of the pictures stand out, so for that I’m thankful. 😉

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As I noted in other postings, I left for Seattle soon after but returned in early 2013. And, when the weather turned nice, and on Buddha’s Birthday, I took a few friends to Buamdong to explore and show them the cool neighborhood. A required stop was of course club Espresso. I finally tried a single-origin coffee there… iced, as it was a warm day in May. But since I was with friends, I didn’t focus my camera on the coffee, but rather on my companions and me. Do you want to see us? Sorry, that’s privileged information. ~~~

I went back again late in the year… yes, November again. I took three more pictures. Unfortunately, by this time my wonderful iPhone 4 was starting to get noticeably slower, and its pictures were noticeably grainier, as a lot of micro-dust had somehow wedged itself inside the lens. However, the pictures are still decent enough:

club Espresso order buzzer, November 2013
club Espresso order buzzer, November 2013
Cappuccino at Club Espresso, November 2013
Cappuccino at Club Espresso, November 2013
Coffee artifacts at Club Espresso, November 2013
Coffee artifacts at Club Espresso, November 2013

Since last October, I’ve kind of been going through a cappuccino phase, after trying a taste-changing (it wasn’t quite life-changing lol) Italian cappuccino at a place called Café Dongnae near my current school in Bucheon. But that review will come later…. Meanwhile, club Espresso’s cappuccino didn’t quite reach the glory of Café Dongnae’s, but it still made my day and merited mention.

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One more thing. club Espresso’s website has a cute and simple map of their location. It reminds me of calligraphy, looks like a Chinese character, and also looks very similar to the shape of their logo. So if you need some fresh air and good coffee in a new, hidden neighborhood, please go to Buamdong and club Espresso, and follow the map below:

map to club Espresso in Buamdong; courtesy www.clubespresso.co.kr
map to club Espresso in Buamdong; courtesy http://www.clubespresso.co.kr

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Here’s a link to a Google Map to find club Espresso.

And here’s a link to a Naver Map and a Naver Map page about club Espresso.

Address:  서울특별시 종로구 부암동 257-1

Korean name:  클럽에스프레소

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

Final verdict:  *****

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