▲ Left, owner Yun Seung Seop serves up a cup of Joe. Right, scenes from the cafe. Photos by Steve Oberhauser
Sinbi’s Love is the second in a five-part series detailing The Jeju Weekly’s best picks for coffee. — Ed.
Coffee is the meaning of Yun Seung Seop’s existence.
The owner of Sinbi’s Love, a hand drip roast café, worked every day as owner of a Shin-Jeju mart for 9 years straight. He is a working machine.
A trip to Seoul inspired him to work for coffee.
The professional coffee roaster, who lacks any formal training, is now big on quality. He does it his own way, and this business is just a hobby. He gives coffee, and more importantly he gives love in the process. Yun lives out the adage, there’s more to life than money.
If you really like coffee and know a thing or two about it, head out of Shin-Jeju towards the Mysterious Road near Loveland. Not only will you find what you’re looking for, but the outside landscaped grounds — with water fountains and gardens — and the inside interior of the building — with houseplants galore, exposed wood beams, a healthy collection of empty wine bottles, a large aquarium, coffee paraphernalia for sale and just for browsing, coffee beans spilling out of burlap sacks ready to be purchased, a real fireplace, comfortable tables and seats at the coffee bar — will have one thinking, this isn’t Jeju. But it is.
Ask around. Other people will say this is the best place for coffee on the island. After exiting, a wagering person would take that bet.
“In one word, coffee means conversation,” Yun said. “This is because when people talk to each other there is always coffee between them.”
For 5,000 won you can choose a cup of hand-dripped coffee made from beans originating in “wild” Africa (four countries, seven choices), “mild” Latin America (10 countries, 11 choices), or “a variety of character” Asia (three countries, three choices). The kicker: one order is actually two cups, and sometimes more. On the way out, a customer can buy all the beans desired.
“This is not for profit, not for money. I work in here for love,” Yun said, waxing philosophical.
What he really, really wants is to give customers more than they want. That’s his desire, to let people know. On occasion, there is so much love, three couples have actually proposed here, later to be married. Recently, one of those couples came back for their anniversary.
When this writer left the building with a Korean friend, we were both extremely caffeinated, having had four cups each. Eight cups total for a mere 10,000 won. There’s no doubt Yun wanted us to try more.
A patron can choose coffee made by paper drip, ice drip, siphon drip, or Nel (short for flannel) drip aka sock drip. Yun will be eager to show how each is done. It’s his passion.
We tried one cup of what the menu said (in Korean) was SHG (Strictly Hard Bean) AAA Panama, noting it was sophisticated, fresh, soft and delicate. A Dutch drip cappuccino happened to be the second cup. This was very cold, deep and strong, with little caffeine and topped generously with a milky froth and sprinkled with cinnamon powder. The third was El Salvador, somewhat acidic. Last was a Dutch drip, mild or strong, where the drinker gets to pour the desired amount of water to mix with the crude base. We tried both ways.
Sinbi’s Love is a choose-your-own adventure of coffee.
Ice drip and Dutch drips run 6,000 and a special drip is listed at 7,000. But that’s just how the menu reads. Of note, five basic tea choices are also available along with hot chocolate and ice chocolate. Coffee is the main reason to come.
Less than three years ago, Yun went to Seoul for a routine wine tasting. He had to wait around for a long time one day.
“I dropped by a coffee shop by coincidence,” Yun said. “I did not drink coffee at that time. I ordered soft and sweet, but the owner served it very strong and black. I drank the coffee bitter.”
He tried again after telling the owner how he felt. It didn’t work. From this point on, Yun reasoned, “I have to do the work for coffee.”
Since July 2009, Yun has owned and run the shop by himself while still frenetically working at the mart during the weekdays, and at Sinbi’s (meaning Mystery) Love on the weekends. In addition, he stops by the coffee abode every morning to roast and pops in at lunch time, too. It’s a nonstop cycle of amor.
One of the previous customers told Yun, “I want to work here for free.” That customer is now the manager.
Yun enjoys co-workers who are interested in coffee.
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