▲ Dalbit Bongbong Veranda is the embodiment of eclecticism. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
A distant chocolate dream has been realized for Jang Gil Yeon.
The owner of Dalbit Bongbong Veranda has been serving coffee, tea, chocolate, cookies and cake in a second-floor space in Bonggae since November of last year. This space also houses a collection of books for borrowing, buying or reading on the spot. Many are from Baramdo Library, which Jang’s husband currently runs as a guesthouse and library in Waheul-ri near Geomunoreum.
“More than 10 years ago, I watched the movie ‘Chocolat’ set in France starring Juliette Binoche,” Jang said. “The main actress changed the village using chocolate. With chocolate, people got relaxed. I watched the movie and I thought of some day having a shop. That was the dream.”
With every handmade batch now coming out of her shop’s spacious kitchen, the dream is materializing. Jang and husband Park Bum Joon moved to Jeju in late 2006, having experienced the media limelight and unwanted side effects after the successful 2005 KBS documentary, “My Life Couldn’t Be Better,” which showcased their farming life in the mountainous village in Muju, North Jeolla Province.
But back to chocolate.
Jang explained three concepts coming together to create the title Dalbit Bongbong Veranda. The triad was a blend from Jang, her husband, and her business partner, Son Eun Jung. Moonlight, or dalbit in Korean, marks the mysterious, magical conditions the lunar scene offers. Bongbong was derived from a French word “bonbon au chocolat” meaning small chocolate. “There is chocolate in this space,” Jang said. And last, Veranda describes an idea where the space is not indoors and at the same time it is not outdoors, she concluded. The meaning can best be absorbed for a patron during a night visit to the shop.
“In taking from daily life, it’s a present, to give chocolate as a gift for people,” Jang said, adding if she can make people happy here, then she is happy.
Matching the owner’s mind, the interior of the coffee shop is completely open. “It’s a unique concept ... and I tried not to change the fixed structure here,” Jang explained. “Hiring someone to design [the shop] would be artificial.”
During a recent visit with a co-worker, many customers filtered in and out throughout the night. However, each setting has enough space to not be crowded or meld into another group’s conversation.
On the table, we ordered the three-cake set menu for 12,000 won and two servings of vitality therapy herb tea (5,500 won each). The dainty slices of cheesecake, chocolate and pound cake are the shop’s main dish. The pound cake, as with any and all, is a bit bland, but balances the dual power of chocolate and cheese. A cycle of goodness. Whole cakes are ready for 16,000 won.
Eight kinds of therapy herb tea are available, including for digestion, vitality, breathing, sleeping, circulation, making the kids calm, calming yourself and relieving pressure.
“We are always developing, increasing the number of tea selections, changing the chocolate, cakes, cookies and categories,” said Jang, who is waiting for Son, her business partner, to soon move from Seoul. Son, using her ingenuity at a major global company, has prior experience running a healing café.
The tea is organic, and the chocolate is from Switzerland and France, Jang said, adding, “All the coffees are organic and fair trade. The flour is also organic, but it’s hard to get organic in Korea. We try to get coffee roasted on Jeju Island.”
Six coffee selections, cold beverages, and milk choices are all priced between 4,000 and 5,500 won. Other edible take-home items for sale are creative cookies, coated nuts and individual chocolates.
“Everything is made here,” Jang said. She rotates the cakes and cookies every two to three weeks.
Before opening this shop, she had started a chocolate and cookie business in Shin-Jeju in April 2010, moving to the current location because of its larger size and proximity to home.
“With the former place the kitchen space was very small,” Jang said. “Here, the kitchen space is not just about cooking. It’s a space where we can concentrate.”
If the cook is happy, then the customers will be happy; therefore Jang is happy making chocolate by hand in her mysterious moonlit space.
(Interpretation by Kim Soo Yang)
Dalbit Bongbong Veranda Jeju City Bonggae-dong 1943 2F Hours: Weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Phone: 064-755-2850
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