Out today via Reuters, an absolutely fascinating overview of the ongoing South Korean “coffee boom.” Some dizzying factoids from the feature:
* In Seoul, “nearly one in every two buildings boasts a coffee shop.”
* “The number of coffee shops [in South Korea] jumped nearly ten-fold to 12,381 during the five years from 2006 to 2011.”
* “South Korean adults consumed an average 338 cups of coffee last year, and coffee imports jumped 44 percent to 130,000 tonnes over the past four years.”
The major driver of all this growth? Starbucks, according to several people interviewed in this article, including a coffee shop franchise owner and a professor at Kyung-hee University in Seoul. Since opening its first store there in 1999, Starbucks South Korea is now the third-biggest Sbux market in the world, after only Japan and the United States. They currently have more than 350 stores in South Korea – many of which are in Seoul – and plan to expand out to a boggling 700 stores by 2016.
Between the plethora of Starbucks and the many, many independent shops and small franchise locations, the South Korean government is seriously considering mandatory distance requirements between cafes in Seoul, so as to “protect them from cut-throat competition.” Similar measures are already in place for bakeries, laws that require new locations be no less than 500 meters away from the nearest existing shop.
So basically, Seoul is the hottest coffee city in the world right now, and we really, really want to go to there. In the meantime, spend time with Aaron Frey’s FRSHGRND blog and his exemplary (if now slightly outdated) coverage of the South Korean coffee scene from an English language perspective.