With its dense population and lack of space, Seoul is known for its abundance of cafes. Whether it’s for a friendly meetup, date, change of scenery, or to get some work done, people continue to flock towards them. However, amongst the competition, there are established independent shops that just do things better than the ubiquitous coffee chains Seoulites know so well. Our list of the best Hongdae coffee shops was chosen with coffee quality, ambiance, and barista expertise in mind and will be split up into parts. We first start off with Coffee Libre, my personal favorite, which particularly distinguishes itself due to the owner’s meticulousness from sourcing the world’s best coffee beans to making the perfect espresso.

Update: Check out Seu Pil-hoon’s new specious Yeongdeungpo location on the WSJ here. Find the other 2 locations in Myeongdong and Itaewon here.

COFFEE LIBRE
227-15 Yeonnam, Mapo, Seoul (서울시 마포구 연남동 227-15), +82 2-334-0615
Open Tuesdays-Sundays 1 – 9 p.m., Closed Mondays
coffeelibre.kr

Step into this hole-in-the-wall, and what immediately strikes you is that this place is all about the coffee. People go out of their way to find this shop and will get their coffee or beans to go as the place is often packed to the brim. However, the wait itself is worthwhile as you get to soak in the feel-good charm of this place and indulge in its luscious aromas. It’s cozy to say the least, seating less than ten people comfortably, but indubitably filled with character.  The space used to be an old herbal medicine shop so you’ll find coffee bags atop a huge apothecary chest, next to rustic concrete walls and modern barista equipment. Soft pastel-colored lights in jars hang from the ceiling and pop art hangs on a nearby wall, while indie music plays in the background. What a combination!

Coffee Libre has only 3 options on their menu: Espresso, Americano, and Cafe Latte all priced at 4,000 won. They continually grind beans for every single cup of coffee, and hand-press them for optimal freshness. They are especially known for sourcing their single-origin coffee beans via fair-trade directly, and obtaining highly regarded CoE (Cup of Excellence) beans as well. As one of the top independent roasters they participate in various coffee-related events in Korea, and top baristas worldwide claim to have used their beans in the World Barista Championships. The Cafe Latte I tried was aromatic and well balanced, with the low acidity making it smooth and pleasant. The Americano was bright, robust, and bitter with a clean aftertaste and lingering finish. Both were simply amazing!

Check out this PeetaPlanet clip on their interview with the owner of Coffee Libre, BK.

Tips:
They are knowledgeable in the Aeropress drip process, and can do it for you upon request. Also, they don’t stock up on soy milk, but if you bring your own they will accommodate your needs. There is a 1,500 won discount if you order your coffee to go. When you order coffee beans, you get one drink for free!

I’d recommend the El Salvador Las Brumas Pacamara coffee beans (200g for 17,000 won, 500g for double), which has a complex flavor with bright acidity due to the farm’s high altitude. Of course, you can’t really go wrong with any of the CoE coffee beans (200g for 25,000) as well. They’ll grind your beans for you, determining the coarseness of the grounds based on your stated brewing method – attention to detail!

Directions:
Hongik University Station, exit 3. Walk out, go straight and follow the main road as it veers left, going away from Hongdae. After a 5-7 minute walk turn left into a small alley, the one immediately before an orange bakery.  Coffee Libre will be a few buildings down on the right.


What are your opinions on Coffee Libre as one of the best Hongdae coffee shops? Let us know by leaving a comment below! Our pick of the best Hongdae coffee shops will continue with Coffee Lab next, which struck us with its retro-modern ambiance and presentation. For foodies in Hongdae, check out Dalgona in our Best Restaurants You’ve Never Heard Of series.

About The Author

RL

An eclectic soul with a diverse background, Rob has lived in Korea for the past 5 years. An avid interest in Korean culture, high-quality media, and content led him to co-founding SeoulSync. On his down time he plays ball, visits museums, explores new places, and shoots. These days, he channels his photography into the @seoulsync IG and his own personal @rlvism account.