The coffee challenge

Never in my life would I have called myself a hard-core coffee addict.

And I wasn’t.

Until I came to Chungju. I am no longer surrounded by thousands of people who also believe a great cup of coffee is the only way to start the day. Nope, I’m in the land of tea. And tea is great! I like tea. In fact, I’ve had some of the best green tea here. But I LOVE coffee.

I need coffee. It’s black, hot, caffeinated, flavorful–a wonderful ritualistic greeting for the day. Over the past three years, coffee has become a major part of my life. Every single morning drinking a steaming mug of joe has been my practice.

When I first arrived, my boss bought me a box of instant coffee. So for my first morning in South Korea, I was introduced to Asian coffee. Creamy, sweet and decaffeinated. I thought to myself, “That’s fine. I’ll just switch to tea.”

But I couldn’t do it. I went on a search for coffee. My first hint this might be a problem was finding absolutely no coffee makers, filters or beans at the nearby grocery store. So I went to E-Mart (think Target) where I found a coffee maker. A beautiful Mr. Coffee for just 78,000 won, which is about $75 USD.

“Yeah, right,” I said. And I complained to everyone I know in America.

Then when I was at Lotte Mart (think WalMart) I found a French press! It said so! In English! I was thrilled! At 18,000 won (about $15 USD), it was something I could afford. Immediately I bought it. The box had sat on the shelf long enough to collect dust, but I wasn’t worried. I would have coffee soon! I also found some coffee filters and a few different types of coffee beans including Folger’s, Maxwell House and Starbucks. (I’ve never been so happy for gigantic corporations.)

When I got home, I ripped into the French press. Only to find it wasn’t a French press at all. It was a coffee maker of a sort. A mysterious version I had only previously seen on “Good Eats.” I’m pretty sure this is the one Alton Brown uses to demonstrate the need for water to soak through the coffee beans very slowly-taking at least five minutes.

It’s a manual coffee maker. And by manual I mean I’m attempting to perfect the art of pouring hot water slowly enough from my tea pot through my coffee maker to get a decent cup of coffee. I still haven’t found that perfect cup, but it’s nice to know it’s there if I want some.

Meanwhile the search for a good coffee shop continues…


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