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More than just coffee at some cafes

Coffee shops and cafs are an important part of Seoul’s cultural atmosphere. Indeed, their incredible popularity becomes apparent walking down almost any street in Seoul. Multiple cafes line the streets, some several stories tall. And they are packed with people.

Most of the cafes on the main streets are chain brands, offering space of one’s own for those who need a quick escape from the cramped city life. If there is one thing that all of these cafes have in common, it is that they are very mundane.

While you can get a decent cup of coffee at these places, paying 5,000 won is a small extravagance. So why not enjoy your bittersweet brew somewhere a little more special? Despite the mushrooming of big name chain stores, Seoul still has many independent coffee shops that are noted for their creativity and special features. 
Customers cuddle with cats at Cat Attic Caf in Myeongdong, Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Customers cuddle with cats at Cat Attic Caf in Myeongdong, Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Several coffee shops, for instance, are solely dedicated to cats. Located in Myeong-dong, Cat Attic offers visitors the experience of having a pet without the responsibility of ownership. Opened in January 2012, the establishment is home to more than 10 different breeds of cats. The entrance fee is 8,000 won which includes a drink of coffee, juice or tea.

“I believe that cats are a great source of comfort for many people,” said the manager of the cat caf Ryu Hyun-ki. “Most customers who come to our caf seek feline companionship. Many people nowadays are drained from work and our caf gives them the comfort and remedy they need.” The caf is located near Exit 6 of Myeongdong Station. For more information, visit www.godabang.com or call (02) 318-3123.

Meanwhile, a furniture-themed caf in Seogyo-dong, near Hongdae, is attracting visitors with its unique furniture and accessories. The caf, named Homeo, is run by a furniture company that specializes in working with architects, interior designers and suppliers. Here people can drink coffee and shop for an exciting mix of vintage and contemporary dcor.

“Many of our clients are looking for a well-selected collection of unique furniture, art and lighting. I could say that we lean more toward being a showroom than a caf,” said An Jun-O, Homeo’s Business Development associate.

The two-story building showcases some of the best-quality vintage furniture from manufacturers Halo, Timothy Oulton and Esquire Home. For more information, visit www.homeo.kr, or call (02) 544-1727.

Just across the street, Mustoy makes ceramic dolls more approachable and affordable to the public. Inviting visitors to create customized dolls, Mustoy has become a hot spot for love-struck couples who want to immerse themselves in a unique art experience.

“Mustoy is different from other art toys in the market. Unlike plastic, ceramic makes erasing easy, so visitors can magically draw, erase and draw again,” said Kim Hak-hyoun, founder of Mustoy caf.

After spending the past 24 years filming commercials as a commercial director, Kim created the caf as an outlet for people to express their imaginative and creative minds using permanent markers and alcohol.

“You can’t call yourselves a couple if you don’t have your very own mustoy.”

For 7,000 won, customers can create their own unique toy for display in the store. For those who want to take their souvenirs home, the price is 15,000 won. A complimentary beverage is included for both. For more information, visit www.mustoy.com or call (02) 541-9347.

A few blocks away, Caf Sultang is devoted to making sugar craft goodies for sweet-toothed customers. Unlike the average corner caf serving cookies and muffins, the caf provides beautiful handmade cakes laden with fondant. The caf stocks a selection of cake decoration equipment and sugar supplies for visitors who are interested in making their own range of edible art.

“Sugar craft is an intricate way of decorating a cake using sugar-based icing,” said caf owner Alice Ha. “You can mold shapes just the same way as Play-Doh. The only difference is that this is edible.” Alice, who used to work as an hotelier in England, opened her own caf in 2009 after falling in love with a wedding cake displayed at her hotel’s wedding ceremony.

Her passion for sugar craft is unreserved. Occupying an entire wall of the property, beautiful cakes and crafts are displayed in several rows to allure guests with refined colors and design. If calories are of no concern, dive straight in for a wonderful treat at the caf. One-day classes are 50,000 won, and drinks and pastries range from 4,000 won to 6,000 won. For more information, visit www.cafe-sultang.com or call (02) 332-4764.

By Bae Soo-min (soomin623@heraldcorp.com)
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