Perhaps it was the sweet and long-lasting aroma of the coffee that keeps me going back to the same café. For the past 5 years, I witnessed the evolution of Club Espresso, the cafe that first introduce me to the coffee drinking culture in South Korea. It is also the cafés that wow-ed me with their quality espresso extractions and the strong, intense mouthfeel that perhaps, none of the cafés in Seoul can duplicate.
Club Espresso is located in Buam-dong, one of the relatively-less-crowded-but-getting-popular-neighborhood (ugh!) in Seoul that offers high concentrations of quality food and coffee. Surrounded by impressive galleries, hidden restaurants, traditional teahouses and studios for many South Korean homegrown designers, Buam-dong makes a family and couple friendly location for a weekend outing.
I especially love the warmth of the wooden interior. It was a building made of red bricks, with rustic wooden furniture decorating the space. I love the wooden tables and chairs by the windows and the huge counter where visitors can sample different blends and single origin coffees before purchasing one that fits their taste and liking. The menu consists of three categories: drip coffee, single-origin espresso, and espresso variations, each category offer at least 5 different beans/beverages.
Up on the second floor of the café was a huge roasting area. Connecting the roasting room was a corridor, filled up with cupboards exhibiting a rich collection of barista tools and accessories any coffee fanatic would love spending hours exploring. I could vividly remember how delighted I was every time I swing open the wooden door and found the delicious smell of the coffee emanating from the bar.
Affogato (above). My personal favourite from Club Espresso. Creamy vanilla ice cream with two shots of vicious, dark espresso poured over. The chopped dark chocolate added a rich depth to the black intoxicating bitters. I love savouring these hot/cold, sweet/intense goodies –the most satisfying simple pleasure in life.
Iced Chocolano (below), another Club Espresso speciality coffee. It is a combination of rich chocolate, a luscious espresso shot and creamy whipped cream. Although we ordered the iced version, the drink was extremely potent — worth your daily calorie quota (once in a while!).
Club Espresso has been the place I constantly return to whenever I am in the area. I adored the tastefully decorated interior and personally felt it is what made the place stands out from the thousands of cafés out there. However, during my latest visit, I found the place has undergone some major renovations. They cleared all the woody interiors on the first floor and turned it into spacious, industrial settings. Obviously, they have remodelled the cafe into a trading friendly environment for coffee beans/ gadget buyers. Visitors may still take their coffee break at level two, which now serves as a seating hall.
All coffee including the eat-in orders is now served in takeaway cups. The espresso is still intact. My girlfriend and I had two servings each that afternoon. I am glad the coffee is of the same old good quality, but the experience of drinking my coffee from the impeccably presented, nicely warmed coffee cup and from a disposable coffee cup is just incomparable.
Doing away with the coffee cups is no doubt an economical and wiser business strategy, but something has gone missing. Substituting the finely chopped chocolate for chocolate fudge was another small disappointment after the renovation. I can’t help but miss the good old days. When I returned home that day, I scrolled down my Facebook timeline and found the photos I took on the very first time I visited the café with YJ and Mr Nice (It was in 2010!). I am glad the memories still echo in the time when things change very quickly.
Writer’s Note: A café that impresses its visitors with the consistent good extractions in EACH cup of the espresso. They undoubtedly brew the best espresso in town, but I prefer the old Club Espresso, the red brick cottage that provides more than just a good cup of coffee.
Club Espresso 클럽 에스프레소
서울시 종로구 부암동 257-1
257-1 Buam-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul.
1. Coming out from Gyeongbok Palace Station (경복궁역) Exit No. 3, walk straight about 100 meters until you reach the 2nd bus stop. (check the board, it should indicate buses number 1020, 7022, 7212.)
2. Board any of the 3 buses above (1020, 7022, 7212) and alight at Buam-Dong Community Service Centre 부암동주민센터 [read: Bu-am-dong Ju-min Sen-toh]. The bus journey is roughly about 10 mins. a total 6 stops (including destination stop) before alighting.
3. After alighting from the bus, try to locate this particular cafe, by walking towards the direction your bus had come from.
4. You’ll see this particular building below after 30-40 seconds of walking towards the direction where you came from before alighting from the bus.
5. That’s your destination! Enjoy your good cup of coffee! 🙂