All coffee enthusiasts know that the ideal way to explore a new city is through its coffee shops, so naturally my week in Seoul, South Korea, was spent sipping my way through its small but swiftly expanding specialty coffee community. There are new, modern, beautifully designed cafes in every pocket of the capital, and my adventures led me to some true gems, including Anthracite Coffee, Fritz Coffee, and Manufact Coffee.
My favorite of the bunch was More Than Less, a fresh new cafe and retail store in Hannam-dong. Opened just this past November, the airy, industrial space has already become a favorite hangout spot for discerning locals through social media and word-of-mouth recommendation.
Run by couple Hyobin Kim and Sang-gyu Woo, More Than Less previously existed as a design boutique in Hongdae, a university district. “We noticed people were often intimidated or hesitant to come into our old store,” Kim told me, “so we had the idea to close the store and re-open it as a coffee shop. A coffee shop is much more inviting—it gives you a reason to come in, and then you can browse in an easy environment.”
The coffee bar is located at the front of the shop, and the retail space is seamlessly incorporated towards the back, showcasing books, accessories, and home goods, many from local Korean designers, including incense company OIMU, and STEEKISH, Kim’s own line of leather bags.
Kim has a product design background, while Woo spent time working as a barista in Australia and runs the coffee side of the business. Many aspects of their company reflect the couple’s shared affinity for Germany. After spending time in Berlin, they developed a fondness for Bonanza Coffee Roasters, whose beans they now serve, along with tea from Althaus Tea. “We’re inspired by Bauhaus design, and we wanted a raw, minimal look,” Kim said. The furniture was custom built and designed in collaboration with a local design firm, and an abundance of plants and greenery softens the industrial feel.
There is a turntable setup opposite the coffee bar, and a live DJ performs every Sunday. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.—much later than typical coffee shop hours here, and ideal for hosting what Kim calls open-air parties.
“It’s like going out to a bar at night, only it’s in the daytime, with natural light and open windows, and you drink coffee instead of alcohol,” explains Kim. Indeed, whether I stopped in on a Thursday evening or Saturday morning, the cafe was always filled with people, and there was always a sort of festive, social feeling in the air. Definitely a must-visit, at any time of day, when you’re in Seoul.
Joanna Han (@joannakarenina) is a Sprudge.com contributor based in New York City. Read more Joanna Han on Sprudge.