The Top 10 Korean Coffee Chains and Brands in Korea – Best of 2019

Getting a Cup Ahead of the Competition

South Korean adults drank 353 cups of coffee in 2018 on average. Compared to the international average of 132 cups a year, it’s safe to assume South Koreans love their coffee. Café culture may not be synonymous with South Korea, but the market has seen nothing but growth. With over 70,000 coffee shops, South Korea boasts a coffee shop for approximately every 600 citizens. According to a report released by KB Financial Group, the number of Korean coffee chains is expected to climb to upwards of 90,000 by 2023 as the Korean café craze continues to accelerate.

Naturally, Korean entrepreneurs may see potential in this hot market. The reality is that nearly 9000 coffee shops closed their doors in 2018 and 14,000 opened with high hopes, the market is fierce. Nearly 10 percent reported losses in 2018 due partly to operating expenses increasing because of the growing competition. Those that are still above water must tread carefully or can expect a hard fall to the red.

Top 10 Korean Coffee Chains of 2019

1. Angel-in-us Coffee

Angel in Us Korean Coffee ChainsAngel-in-us Coffee is the top Korean coffee chain in Korea.  It is owned by the Lotte Group and the name means that the coffee is delivered to us by “Angels”. The chain can be found in any city in Korea. It is known for having large spaces and having a unique process for their beans. They have a large selection of pastries, waffles, and desserts.

2. CAFFE BENE

cafebene CAFFE BENE is the largest Korean coffee chain based on the number of stores. It is a fusion of the East and the West. They do a great job of blending European/U.S. tastes with Asian flavors. They have a large selection of coffees, lattes, smoothies, teas, and Korean traditional drinks like misugaru.  In addition, they have a dessert selection that includes honey bread, bingsu, macarons, and more.

3. A Twosome Place

A Twosome PlaceA Twosome Place is owned by CJ Foodville of CJ Group. The name stands for “Two” of us having “Some” dessert at a “Place”. They now have over 1,000 shops and have expanded into China and Southeast Asia. They have a great selection of cakes such as Red Velvet Cake and even carrot cake.  Outside of Starbucks, A Twosome Place is ranked #1 in terms of profit for Korean coffee chains.

4. TOM N TOMS COFFEE

TOM N TOMS is the only coffee shop in Korea that offers an ice cinnamon cafe mocha. However, what they are known for the most is their wide selection of pretzels. They have over 600 locations and have also expanded into Southeast Asia. In addition, they have probably the widest selection of drinks. Some of these include Coconut Milk Cappuccino, Red Bean Latte, Sweet Potato Latte, and more. The menu is constantly changing.

5. HOLLYS COFFEE

Holly's Coffee Korean Coffee ChainsHOLLYS COFFEE is one of the more established Korean coffee chains in Korea. They first opened in 1998 focusing mainly on coffee, tea, and hot specialty drinks. They have since expanded into China and Southeast Asia. In addition, they have their own barista academy called the Hollys Coffee Academy. One of their most popular drinks is the Tiramisu Latte. You can also order baked goods such as waffles, scones, muffins, and bagels.

6. dal.komm COFFEE

dal.komm coffeeThis Korean coffee chain started out in Hongdae and became known for its popularity with the hip art crowd. Their concept is contemporary music and events with musicians. They were able to get a famous Korean actress named Shin Se-Kyung as the face of their brand. Furthermore, the chain has its own app that offers discounts and the ability to pre-order. n Korean, “Dal Kom” means sweet. Many of their drinks are sweet such as Strawberry Cube, Chocolate Shake, and Honey Hallabong.

7.  EDIYA COFFEE

Ediya Korean Coffee ChainsThere are over 3,000 stores all across Korea. The chain focuses on opening up in small shops in subprime locations. Ediya stands for a tribe in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the origin of their coffee. EDIYA offers very low prices for their coffees which costs anywhere between 2,500 won to 4,000 won. In addition, Ediya has one of the largest coffee shops in Seoul with its Ediya Lab located near Hakdong Station. It is a great place for digital nomads to get their work done.

8.  Cafe DropTop

Cafe DropTopCafe DropTop is a premium coffee shop in Korea that focuses on the customer’s health as well as their taste. It offers organic coffee and a cozy interior made from natural materials. Their decorations are made through low-carbon processes. They offer a wide selection of desserts such as strawberry yogurt cake, cheese tart, and cheese bagels. We recommend you check out the Myeongdong shop.

9. PAIK’S COFFEE

PAIK's Korean Coffee ChainsPAIK’S COFFEE is known for being one of Korea’s most popular coffee chains. They are popular with college students and seniors because their coffee is really affordable and comes in a large plastic cup! They also offer juices and smoothies. An Ice Americano will only cost 2,000 won. The one major negative is that the drinks are served with crushed ice which is great for a hot day.  However, if you don’t drink it all quickly, the drink will get watered down fast.

10.  banapresso

bannapressoBanapresso has been exploding in 2019 and could rise up this list very quickly. They are known for their cute pink interior and exterior design as well as the self-ordering system. The workers only focus on making the drinks which allow for virtually no lines. The coffees are very cheap and the service is very fast. They have a very strong social media community and banapresso could be a glimpse of what is to come in regards to the future of coffee shops.

Room for New Korean Coffee Brands?

The classic approach of boldly marching into a company and pitching your product or service still holds value today. “Knocking on doors”, like handwritten notes, can make a lasting impact on a potential client. Greg Ubert, the founder of award-winning Crimson Cup Coffee in Ohio, USA, did just this. Greg visited local businesses in his area, both big and small, and introduced himself and his company. He gave away free drink coupons, visited local events, and did as much as he could to put a face to his brand. His proactive marketing efforts coupled with his engaging personality generated support for his coffee. Eventually, these professional relationships grew into partnerships with local businesses and community groups. Greg now has over 300 locations across the United States of America. Of course, it isn’t this black and white…. or is it? Visit local businesses and build relationships, create an engaging presence on social media, offer free samples at local events, and be proactive in your marketing efforts prior to opening day! Far too many small businesses mistakenly begin marketing after their liabilities start to cast an overbearing shadow on their business.

How Can New Korean Coffee Brands Compete?

Some of the most useful marketing tools also happen to be the least expensive. YouTube and Instagram have been hubs for the “latte art” trend which after a simple search yields videos with hundreds of thousands if not millions of views. The fascination with creative foamy designs on a cup of coffee is contagious. Coffee consumers continue to flock to cafés that differentiate themselves with latte art because it elevates their morning coffee into a personalized experience. An experience that can be shared.

Greem CafeGreem Café in Seoul realized this and reaped the benefits as a result. The marketing lead of Greem Café, J.S. Lee, noted that most coffee brands offer similar flavors with subtle differences and that the experience is what keeps consumers coming back. In light of this, Greem Café was designed with a cartoon aesthetic. From the cups to the walls, everything is postable. This drew in huge crowds of customers who likely did not come for the coffee. The foot traffic was so overwhelming that the café was quickly relocated to a larger building.

With the Korean café market still percolating it’s no wonder, entrepreneurs continue investing in this statistically brutal industry. Leverage free marketing tools, visit local businesses and offer a warm personality. Create a community, not just a consumer…. and do it before the coffee goes cold.