I discovered Coffee Libre by accident. I'd heard many good things about it before but after a day in Itaewon I stumbled across the warm neon glow of a lucha mask, their logo. Coffee Libre has everything I look for in a cafe. Good coffee, good beans, a short menu, friendly staff and of course good design to hold it all together. And on this particular day, the neon glow beckoned me like a lighthouse on a stormy sea.
I had already been in Korea a few weeks but I was having no success with coffee. Although every street is lined with cafes, its really hard to find the good ones. They all serve watery, burnt, sugary coffee or a combination of the three. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of great cafes that serve amazing coffee, but they are hard to find. Its like trying to find a good font, it takes time and patience. When walking to my nearest bus stop, I encounter 5 independent cafes. 4 of them are in a courtyard all facing each other like a Mexican standoff. Although I should probably try them, they all look the same, I'm pretty sure they all sell the same coffee and I'm also scared to offend one of them. Also, they all open after 10am and for me that is unacceptable. I've already had about 2 coffees by then.
In a country where coffee is overpriced and overall not that great, Coffee Libre shines. Coffee Libre keeps it simple, and in this case this works in their favor. Their concise menu consists of espresso, latte, americano, single origin and maybe 2 sweet drinks. But that's it! and each one is around 4,000 won which is basically a steal in Korea. They keep their costs down by roasting locally, and they are currently my go to for purchasing whole beans. Their beans range between 13,000 - 20,000 won but with a purchase of any beans you also get a free coffee.
My favorite location out of the four (Yeonnam, Itaewon, Myeongdong, Yeongdeungpo) is the one in Itaewon but I usually go to the Myeongdong branch out of convenience. The quality of coffee is the same in the two locations I've visited, but the Itaewon one has more seating while the Myeongdong one is more of a order to go sort of place. I have yet to visit the other locations but they all serve great coffee.
In terms of whole beans, I've only tried their blends (I really like their dark roast) and their famous "Bad Blood" and "No Surprises" blends, which are apparently often used in coffee competitions. I prefer the No Surprises and their darker roasts just because they are a little smoother. I still need to get used to the more sour tasting blends which some people prefer. I guess I haven't advanced to that level yet. But that's just my preference. I also really like their latte which has more flavor than your average latte and is very aromatic. If you generally don't like lattes, try this one out. If you want to try their beans I would go for either their dark roast or their "No Surprises" blend. Works great with my aeropress!
Check them out the next time you are in one of the areas and craving coffee. Below is a map to their Itaewon location, check the link for the others.
More information on their locations and hours can be found here: http://www.coffeelibre.kr/pages/cafe.html