Steamers Coffee Factory is the type of cafe I'm always looking for. Great atmosphere, friendly & knowledgeable baristas, delicious coffee and perfectly roasted beans. Many cafes have a few of these components but its hard to find all four. A cafe that can deliver in all four of these areas will keep me going back.
I find that the area most cafes have difficulty with is perfectly roasted beans. Even cafes that have a roasting machine or a roasting room can struggle with this. What people have come to believe is that any place that roasts their own beans must serve good coffee, but this isn't necessarily true. One of the problems is that the standard for coffee in Seoul has been set by many of the franchise coffee shops. The high cost of coffee as well as the darker roast has been made acceptable by these franchises which in turn puts pressure on the independent cafes. Its hard to promote good coffee when Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Ediya, Tom N Toms, Hollys all serve the same slightly burnt tasting coffee. Since places like Starbucks generally go for a dark, almost burnt roast, people have come to expect that from their coffee.
There isn't anything bad about a dark roast but when beans get a little burnt, the true flavors are masked. Good coffee beans tend to be roasted a bit lighter and this also shows the roaster's skill in knowing when to bring the best flavors out of the beans. I am beginning to approach pretentious territory here and although I'm not a coffee expert I know that coffee beans have different flavors and levels of acidity that can change the drinking experience. If you usually find yourself in franchise cafes I would encourage you to go to a local roaster or cafe for a new coffee experience.
All this to say that Steamers Coffee Factory roast their own beans and they are very good. They are a little hard to find information on but based on the coffee I have tried there and the beans I have bought from them, they really know what they are doing. I bought a bag of Guatemala verde azul and it completely blew me away. This is the first time I have been so impressed with the flavor and sweetness packed into a bag of locally roasted beans in Seoul. I've been using their beans in my aeropress this past week and the results have been tremendous.
In addition to their beans, the coffee, atmosphere and friendly baristas really make the experience complete. This is another cafe where buying a bag of beans gets you a free coffee. I would definitely recommend doing that. Check them out if you are in the Sinsa area. They roast great beans and let the coffee do the talking.