I love coffee. There isn’t a coffee product on the market that I dislike, although chocolate covered espresso beans are not my favorite. They should be. They are a combination of both of my favorite flavors. However, a hot mocha with whipped cream, and chocolate sauce on top, well that is a bit of heaven right here on earth. I’m so happy that Korea as embraced coffee and cafe culture. The first time I came to Korea I lived in a small town called Mokpo. Mokpo is well worth visiting, because it is a very charming port city. I have a lot of good memories from there. Anyway. At the time Starbucks hadn’t penetrated the Asian market. I think that right as I was getting ready to leave for Taiwan, a Starbucks opened in Seoul. Seoul was far from Mokpo, not just geographically, but mentally and spiritually. What I’m trying to say is that the search for a good cup of coffee required the skills of Indiana Jones. It was quite the adventure. There were two kinds of coffee shops. One was usually on the second floor of a shops building. It usually was well decorated and had sofas instead of chairs and served tea and coffee and “Western” food. The coffee was usually very expensive and was very weak. I think black tea looked stronger than the coffee they served. The other kind of coffee shop did serve stronger coffee, usually instant. But it was always served by a pretty girl who wore even more make-up than most of the girls in town. They were usually in the basement, and although the one time I wandered in, they treated me well, it wasn’t the most comfortable place for a western woman to hang out in.
Things have changed. I’m living in Seoul now, after some other adventures. And Seoul, as well as most of Korea, has thoroughly embraced coffee. I’m not that surprised. Bally Bally (hurry hurry) is a joke among the Koreans. Now you can’t go 3 feet without hitting a coffee shop. They have the old-fashioned ones that are on the second floor, and the sofas are just as comfortable, but the coffee and western food has changed for the better. There are the chain coffee shops. And if you go to Ehwa Women’s University District (e-dae) they have one of the most wonderful places. A chocolatier that is also a coffee shop. They make one of the best cafe lattes in the universe.
I love e-dae. And that is why, when I finally had a chance to catch up with one of my best friends here, I wanted to walk to e-dae. We met in Sincheon, mostly because that is where we almost always meet, and it is easier to just meet at our “place”– I don’t know why Kim and I have become such good friends. We really don’t look like we would be. She is about 10 years younger than me, and she is very beautiful. I’m very average looking. She is also one of the most stylish women I’ve met, and here in Korea that is saying a lot. I’m usually wearing teacher frumpy clothes, or blue jeans. She is Korean, and I am American. She is very, very smart. I’m average. But we have been friends for quite a while. I think the reason we get along so well is that we think a lot alike. Therefore when I suggested a walk to e-dae, I did not have to sell the idea. Instead her face got all bright, and she asked if I wanted to go the ‘secret way’. Who can resist the secret way?
So we wandered along small alley ways filled with small store selling jewelry and fashionable clothes. We wandered until we got to the best chocolatiers slash coffee shop in the universe. Where we sat and ate ice-cream and watched the people go by. True, not a particularly exciting evening as evenings go. Yet soothing to the mind and soul. Because in the end, sometimes nothing else will do. We all need a bit of coffee, chocolate and friendship.