Coffee with character at

By Jean Oh

New green bean showroom showcases brews with personality

  • Published : May 31, 2019 - 11:00
  • Updated : May 31, 2019 - 11:00

The scent of candied strawberries fills Coffee’s small showroom, emanating from freshly ground beans of Bourbon and Castillo varieties hailing from the El Paraiso association in Colombia.

Once extracted as pour-over coffee, this brew unleashes an initial layer of lemon peel, followed by the sugary, dairy-rich scent of strawberries and cream.

“This coffee possesses a very clear character,” said Coffee CEO Lee Min-kyu. 

The 35-year-old seems to view character as essential to coffee. 

At Coffee’s showroom, coffee aficionados and potential clients can cup -- taste -- a variety of single-origin coffee (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

When the coffee aficionado traded in a profession as a consultant for one as a green bean seller, he christened his new business, an abbreviation of the phrase “their own character.”

“It refers to the green beans brought from their place of origin, and to us -- the employees -- and to the people who come to our showroom,” Lee said, explaining how he sees character in coffee and in people who are part of and who come to

Lee first transitioned to coffee when he quit his job at a consulting company to further his financial studies. 

While studying, he frequented a cafe near his house and ended up developing a newfound passion for coffee.

Fast forward to May. Lee soft-opened a showroom in Seoul’s Samseong-dong for his fledging business, which focuses on green beans -- essentially coffee beans that have not been roasted yet. 

(Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

His primary focus is on selling beans from farms he has visited himself.

To date, he has traveled to Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Costa Rica and plans to travel to Guatemala in June.

At the showroom, he and his team focus on roasting beans in a way that reminds him of how it tasted when he first tried the coffee at its source.

The resulting roasts are complex, aromatic and flavorful.

Beans of the Geisha varietal from Finca Nuguo in Panama kick off with a fermented tartness reminiscent of soy sauce and citrus peel before the flavor of round, ripe blueberries comes to the forefront.

Beans of the Geisha varietal from the Mikava farm in Colombia feature a tropical fruit profile reminiscent of round, cool lychees before tapering off into a mellow sweetness that brings durian or an uber-ripe mango to mind. Coffee’s showroom soft-opened in Seoul’s Samseong on May 6 (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

“When we roast, we want clean flavors and we also want that sweetness,” said Lee, who added that he prefers a light roast for a “tea-like” cup of coffee.

Potential clients and coffee aficionados can pop by and enjoy those beans as pour-over coffee, snagging a perch in the nine-seat space to sip and savor these brews.

One can also cup -- i.e. taste -- the coffee or try some espresso-based variations, including flat whites and Americanos. Coffee’s showroom soft-opened in Seoul’s Samseong on May 6 (Photo credit: Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald) Coffee

35 Bongeunsa-ro 74-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Open Mondays through Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m., closed Sundays

Pour-over coffee costs 5,000 won to 15,000 won, coffee cupping costs 2,500 won to 7,500 won, espresso-based coffee costs 4,000 won to 4,500 won

By Jean Oh (