Hip coffee brand expands in Seoul

By Jean Oh

Dorrell opens new lab concept space in renovated house

  • Published : Sept 1, 2017 - 17:36
  • Updated : Sept 1, 2017 - 17:36
Dorrell is a relative newbie to the coffee scene, almost six months old, but this Jeju Island-native is taking root fast.

After opening its first 78-seat cafe on Jeju Island this March, the brand launched a second outlet near Seoul’s Garosugil in late May.

Then, on Aug. 31, Dorrell opened a lab concept location in Cheongdam-dong.

Within less than half a year, this fledgling cafe has unveiled three brick-and-mortar shops. Its latest is a beautiful, coffee geek-worthy spot in a renovated house. 

Dorrell 6z Lab opened in a renovated house in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul, on Thursday. (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
A gorgeous, built-in Modbar espresso machine seamlessly blends into the rustic vibe of the lab, which, in addition to its line-up of espresso-based sips, also offers pour-over coffee of three Ethiopian single origin coffees.

Plans are to also serve cheese scones, cinnamon-apple crumble and other sweets sourced from Canvas Cake -- a local, artisanal dessert brand.

In terms of scope and scale, it looks like Dorrell is thinking big, but sit down with barista Kim Do-geun, whose official job title is “master” at Dorrell, and it becomes apparent that one of the keys behind its success is its razor-sharp, streamlined approach to coffee.

According to Kim, there are two basic tenets that everyone adheres to at Dorrell.

All milk foam is a buttery, smooth microfoam and all brews -- save for their pour-over coffee -- are extracted from a dark-roasted blend of Ethiopian and South American coffee from seven different origins that is sourced from a local roaster.

“We like coffee that tastes like jam and chutney,” said Kim, whose English nickname, Dorrell, inspired the name of the cafe chain. “And we want coffee that is a strong performer when combined with milk.”

To that end, the coffee at Dorrell is robust with rich flavors of chocolate and caramel and a fruity bitterness.

When served up with milk, the coffee grows mellow. Bitter notes vanish and one is left with a potent brew that unfurls layers of butterscotch, dark chocolate and a hint of ripened berries.

For Kim and his crew, this coffee acts as a canvas for a range of variations, which includes one of their most popular sips --- the Nutty Cloud.

The process for this clever drink is relatively simple once deconstructed.

Cold milk is topped with house-made peanut cream before a single shot of espresso is poured over the whole thing.

What one gets in that finished cup is simply delicious.

The warmth of the espresso fuses with the peanut cream for a nutty, sweet top layer that is very buttery and creamy and rich. A cold wash of milk swoops in and tempers all that intense sweetness.

Dorrell definitely has a knack for subtly surprising dessert coffee, not only with its Nutty Cloud but also with its take on Einspanner.

Eschewing whipped cream for its own house-made cream concoction, Dorrell‘s cream, which is not whipped, sinks into what is essentially a very potent Americano.

With Dorrell’s Einspanner there is no delineation between the cream and the coffee.

One seamless sip unveils a caramelized flavor that brings toasted marshmallow to mind.

All of this subtle tweaking of classic coffee-based drinks is part and parcel of Dorrell’s dedication to experimentation. 

Dorrell’s famous Nutty Cloud (front) -- a blend of house-made peanut cream, espresso and cold milk -- and its take on Einspanner (back) -- featuring a house-made cream concoction that fuses into a potent Americano (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Kim, who has been in the coffee business for 16 years, revealed that working at Dorrell began well before Dorrell actually launched.

“One year before Dorrell opened, there was an actual lab here in Seoul,” Kim, 37, explained how he and his co-workers researched what to serve for months in advance.

Now, nearly half a year later, Dorrell has returned to its Seoul stomping ground with another lab, where employees can continue to research coffee.

That does not mean that there will be a slew of new drinks in the near future. According to Kim, “We plan to release one to two new drinks over the course of a year.”

Dorrell 6z Lab

1F, 113-13 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
(02) 516-3675
Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, closed Sundays
Coffee-based drinks cost 3,500 won to 6,500 won

By Jean Oh (