5 Cool Cafés to Check Out in Busan

BY TANYA NANETTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

Photos by Tanya Nanetti

Busan is South Korea’s second most populous city, and the unofficial capital of the country’s southern region. Its name is familiar to K-pop lovers (thanks to its close association with the genre’s biggest band, BTS) and movie geeks (as the setting of the well-known Korean zombie film Train to Busan). Home to a vibrant specialty-coffee scene (most famously Momos and 2019 WBC Champ Joo Yeon), Busan’s streets are dotted with cute cafés, perfect for a break during a day spent exploring the city.

But of course Busan, with its trendy harbor atmosphere where tradition blends seamlessly with modernity, has much more to offer the many tourists who visit throughout the year. Colorful hillside villages lie not far from an incredible Buddhist temple overlooking the ocean. Rows of cherry trees color the city in the spring, while warm cafés and bars are just waiting to welcome you in the wetter and colder months. In the long weekend I spent enjoying the city, I had the chance to visit many delicious specialty cafés, all cozy and special in their own way. With an abundance of coffee pros heading to Busan next month for the 2024 World Barista Championship, May 1-4, here are five of the coolest places we had the chance to explore.

In front of Lazy's bar is a record player, while penguin paraphernalia and white coffee brewers and grinder cover the counter.
Lazy Moments Coffee Stand chose the penguin as its symbol because penguins are social animals that gather in large groups (like us).

Lazy Moments Coffee Stand

The first thing we realized once we arrived in Busan is the city’s sprawl: It often takes more than an hour to reach one’s destination by public transit, and that is how long it took me to reach Lazy Moments Coffee Stand, a beautiful café outside the main tourist area.

Situated in a lovely location, right in front of a small river that in spring is lined with flowering cherry blossom trees, Lazy Moments made us forget about travel fatigue in seconds. The space is large but cozy, with its crowd of locals, comfortable seating, and friendly team. The house-roasted coffee is extracted only as a pourover and served either black or with milk or milk alternatives as café au lait. And how could we not mention the super cute penguin Petterson, the café’s logo? Chatting with the lovely owner Minhye Park, we found out how the logo was chosen. “While looking for a symbol that could present our brand personality, we discovered that penguins live in large groups,“ Minhye told us over a delicious black Kenyan coffee. “We also like to do different things together with our friends, and that’s how the penguin logo (and the Lazy Moment Coffee Stand itself) was born.“

Lazy Moments is worth a visit, even if it’s far from your prearranged itinerary.

Industrial-chic designs of light wood, dark metalsm and hanging lamps above the wooden counters at Strut.
The chic interior of Strut Coffee in the Jeonpo neighborhood.

Strut Coffee

We discovered the trendy Jeonpo, a historic area with workshops and factories that has been transformed into a hip neighborhood that is home to many of the city’s coolest cafés and bars. We spent many of our mornings wandering around the neighborhood looking for a cute new coffee shop to try.

We came across Strut Coffee on a sunny day and immediately fell in love with its lovely patio and cozy interior, which includes some seating and the roasting area. I started the day choosing from different beans for a delicious cortado, and also tried the same beans extracted as pourover. It was the perfect way to start a morning.

A green mug with a cortado, and a small plate with a green matcha cake roll and madeleine cookie.
The flat white, vanilla madeleine, and matcha roll at Hytte Roastery.

Hytte Roastery

A short distance from Strut Coffee, specialty roastery Hytte welcomes customers to a beautiful location on the second floor of a small building. The neat, welcoming space has a nice view of nearby rooftops. A simple poster on the wall has the company logo followed by a meaningful quote: “Alone we can do little, together we can do so much,“ with a list of team members.

Moreover, everything here is really coffee-centric, starting with an old-fashioned menu: a simple sheet of paper (offered in both Korean and English) listing all the beans available for both filter and espresso, adequately displaying the roast grade and tasting notes. Take time to choose your favorite combination (such as flat white – hot – Ethiopia), fill out the form, and hand it to the barista. And don’t forget to add a pastry! The vanilla madeleines and matcha rolls are to die for.

The owner in a pink bandana behind the eclectic bar at Naive.
Naive Brewers has vintage, upcycled vibes galore, along with their tasty brews.

Naive Brewers

Among Jeonpo’s many micro-roasters, only a few have as much personality as Naive Brewers, a tiny space that looks more like a comfortable living room than a classic café. There is a simple (homemade) coffee counter, made of wood and metal, next to a vintage Smeg refrigerator, a single-group La Marzocco, and a small brew bar, from which the charismatic owner-barista brews his tasty coffee. There are striking drawings and posters, often depicting cats, and recycled tables made from old buckets.

These and other small details help make Naive a unique and quirky place that would be a shame to miss.

Latte and snack cakes on a black tray.
Requirement Coffee Brewers features Australian-style coffee, with most beans sourced straight from Down Under.

Requirement Coffee Brewers

In the southern part of Busan, not far from the Museum of Movies, Requirement Coffee Brewers welcomes customers with a special atmosphere made up of Korean hospitality perfectly blended with Australian coffee culture. It is a trendy little place where good music is played all day long; old-school video clips are projected on the wall along with cool posters, stickers, and graffiti; and delicious cakes are baked and served with a smile.

But of course these are just bonuses: The coffee is the real star here, with beans mostly sourced straight from Down Under and a menu made up of bold flat whites and other espresso-based drinks (all perfectly executed). Their pourovers are brewed with the latest cool brewers available on the market. We tried a Colombia brewed with the Paragon (patented by Nucleus Coffee Tools), and it was simply delicious.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.

Cover image of the April + May 2024 19th Anniversary Issue

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