▲ Yang Sang Hyun serves up a cup of Joe at his coffee shop in Shin-Jeju, Sumokwon Ganeungil. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
Sumokwon Ganeungil is the fourth in a five-part series detailing The Jeju Weekly’s best picks for coffee. –Ed.
One of Jeju’s best indoor sites is found at Sumokwon Ganeungil in Shin-Jeju.
After leaving this handmade and drip coffee shop for the first time, there was an overall feeling that nothing could be improved. Even a jaded reviewer would be hard-pressed to disagree.
With two different floor seating areas and a handful of tables and couches, about 30 people can make do inside of owner Yang Sang Hyun’s space.
“This shop has been here 10 years,” Yang said. “I’ve had it for two-and-half years. Before my mother ran this as only a traditional tea house, but now we sell coffee.”
Upon entering, it takes a few minutes to size up the interior.
In the center, there are small rock walls, a fish pond, green plants, inanimate Japanese cats, a wood stove and a miniature bridge pathway.
Around and between the natural wood tables, vertical tree branches make small fences and demarcations. One of the floor tables is the well-polished horizontal section of an enormous wood stump. Bookshelves appear among more branches. A few walls are lined with brick.
Above, ornaments and wire-wrapped balls hang from the ceiling while wood shingles come off the roof enclosure for insulating two of the tables.
“From when I was a very young child I was very affected by my mother,” Yang explained. “Her religion is Buddhism. I met a lot of monks and had a lot of chances to learn the methods of drinking tea when young.”
His real dream was to be an airplane engineer and pilot. During his military service Yang’s dream stopped.
“This is the only thing I can do because I had learned many things about tea,” said Yang, noting he cannot drink alcohol, so he prefers a coffee shop and wanted to sell what he makes by hand. He credits his wife as well for his success.
As for coffee selections, there are four different Ethiopian bean choices and one each from Yemen, Rwanda, Timor, Kenya and Colombia. Four kinds of black tea, nine traditional teas and about seven other beverages such as strawberry milk and hot chocolate made from 65 percent black cacao complete the menu. Everything is priced between 5,000 won and 7,000 won. No food is sold.
A friend and translator chose the traditional lemon tea. I decided on the traditional jujube tea. Both were served cold with finely crushed ice, slushie style for 6,000 won. This was the best beverage to touch my taste buds since news many months ago of the Slurpee machine not being introduced into any of the area’s 7-Elevens. The other tea choices served hot (5,000 won) or with ice are plum, citron, Chinese quince, pine tree needle, iced tea, Japanese tangerine and lemonade.
On the house were two of the best hard, handcrafted chocolate chip cookies that can be found on the island. In addition, burned popcorn kernels were in a small metallic dish. The cookie-and-kernel combo was a bit weird, only because I have eaten a lot of cookies and a lot of kernels, yet not together. A bit of hot black tea served in a glass decanter was also poured into clay tea cups that looked as though they might have been made by children.
Yang said there are a variety of customers including teachers, doctors and nurses who come into this space.
However, not surprisingly, most customers here are career women in their 20s or 30s.
The shop’s name literally translates as “the road to Sumokwon,” which is a park further south inside the island out of Shin-Jeju.
The truth prevails here. Even the hours are by the book. There’s no extra time. Yang had all customers promptly out at 10:50 p.m. The curtain closed.
There are only select places that can be etched into long-term memory. This one space qualifies.
Sumokwon Ganeungil Handmade Tea Shop Jujube Tea & Drip Coffee & Black Tea Address: Chang Hung Jutalk, 700-7 Nohyung-dong, Jeju City Hours: 1 p.m. to 10:50 p.m. Phone: 064-712-8380
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