The Pancake Epidemic (TPE) located in Apgujeong is the creation of StreetVirus, a creative marketing agency and Kasina, a Korean distribution company. Launched last September I've now visited their main branch twice. Both visits left me impressed and filled with very good coffee. More than just good coffee though, The Pancake Epidemic proves that when creativity and cultural understanding come together, the results usually speak for themselves.
TPE is in the heart of Apgujeong, an upscale residential and shopping area. Apgujeong adds a very different dimension to Seoul city life. Even on a weekday when the weekend crowds have left, there is still a lingering energetic feel to the place. There is a sense that anything could happen, that something needs to happen. The concrete framework is there. Apgujeong wants to be explored and having grown up in cities I find comfort in that.
The cafe is above the Stussy store (check out the map below) and has plenty of seating, wifi, and a few outlets scattered around making it a great place to get work done. I often find myself with bad coffee in a great working space (Starbucks) or great coffee in a tiny place with no wifi or seating (other... places...?). This is the best of both worlds and if I didn't live in Suwon, I would probably head here more often. In addition to all the cool artwork and furniture there is a barbershop right as you walk in. Although I have yet to witness it I believe haircuts do actually take place there. Ironically, they weren't serving pancakes the first time I came but they apparently got asked why they didn't serve pancakes so often they felt the need to start serving them. On my most recent visit they were serving them. In asia customer is king.
Yet with all this said, the coffee is the hero. On my first visit I had their latte which completely changed the way I viewed lattes, and the second time I had their espresso and americano. I think they switch up the beans but on the day I visited they were using their popular Ethiopia Yigacheffe Chelbessa for their Espresso with their la marzacco machine. Delicious. According to the flyer, there are hints of Jasmine, Bergamot Oil, Peach, Comlex, and Honeydew. Its a good thing I could look at the flyer. Now I know many coffee purists do not really regard the americano highly, but at least while I review cafes in Korea I think I will have to try the americano wherever I go. The americano is by far the most popular drink at cafes and I think there's even a Korean song about it. At any rate, everything I've tried here so far has been great. One of the main reasons why the coffee is so good is because they import all their beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. The barista told me that they import weekly, which is quite the undertaking. According to this Sprudge interview they ship overnight since they want to use the beans no longer than 13 days after roasting. As a result the prices are a little higher, especially in the price of their beans which start from 30,000 won and go over 40,000 for 12oz(340g) of beans. That's about $30-$40 for a bag of beans which in the US goes for about half the price. Drinks on average are 5,000-7,000 won which honestly is pretty average for Korea.
Let me also say this. Coffee is a lot more expensive in Korea than it is in most other places I have lived. A grande americano in the US is around $2.50 while in Korea it goes for 4600 won ($4-$4.50). That is quite a big difference, but people still pay for it without complaining. Subsequently the price for americanos at most other coffee shops is about the same. I was shocked when I first came to Korea and refused to pay for expensive coffee.I would try to find cheaper places but that usually meant watery coffee that wasn't worth it. The price at places like TPE might be a bit higher than the average coffee but there's usually also a good reason for that. You can read more about the good Stumptown does on their website, but they are treating everyone in the business fairly, especially the farmers and producers of the coffee. I may go into this further in a later post but places like Stumptown are good for the coffee business and although you may be paying a little bit more, it usually means that people are being treated fairly and with respect. Coffee is just a beverage but many livelihoods depend on it. I hope that this blog can help people find good coffee, especially coffee that is changing lives.
If you are in the Apgujeong area and craving good coffee, go give them a try. They also have branches in the Hyundai Department Store in Coex and Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong.
More information on their locations and hours can be found here: http://thepancakeepidemic.com/#locations