Coffee shops are for women,” Mina said.
“Yeah, it’s cool too dress up and go hang out with friends and just talk,” she said.
Coffee shops are certainly thought of differently in Korea. Koreans love their coffee. They also love their corporations. This love has combined to bring the world Papa Rotini.
The father of buns.
I couldn’t make that slogan up.
The father of buns.
Uh-huh. I know what you’re thinking. Just laugh.
Back with me? Good.
There are quite a few of these around, but my favorite shop is a tiny closet-sized space near Lotte Mart in Chilgeumdo, Chungjusi.
The shop workers are obnoxiously happy. They always greet me with smiles and a menu in English. (Because neither of us have the patience for me to work my way through hangeul while other customers crowd the small space.) They have the usual confection of ridiculous fluffy drinks like lattes and cappuccino drowning in whipped cream, but they also have the holy grail of coffee in Korea. Drip coffee! Good ol’ American style boring black drip coffee made fresh and served hot.
During my latest venture I decided to test out the cupcakes on display. They were just so cute! Tiny little heart shaped sprinkles on white cream frosting and an itty-bitty chocolate cupcake. Too sweet to resist, I caved and forked over an astonishing 3,000 won for the sweet treat.
I sat at a small table lining the wall. The decor is Victorian-esque and provided a perfect setting for the well-dressed women gossiping at the only table big enough for more than two in the establishment.
Soon my coffee and cupcake were brought to me by the always cheerful barista. The coffee was delicious! They’ve definitely worked out the coffee to water ratio correctly at this place. (A tough find, I promise.) I enjoyed sipping my caffeine as I wrote for a few minutes before feeling brave enough to take on the CUPCAKE.
I try to lower my expectations whenever I eat something I know and love from home because it just won’t be the same. But even with the lowest low expectations in mind the cupcake was disappointing.
The sweet frosting tasted as though it was made from shortening. Although the white color was lovely, the greasy blandness was not.
The cake itself was dry to the point of stale. The texture was such it made me think perhaps it was made with rice flour. And despite being chocolate looking, I couldn’t actually detect any chocolate flavor. I knew the chocolate would be mild, as I’ve come to expect here in Korea. But this cupcake was appalingly flavorless.
Wheat flour and butter would go along way towards improving your cupcakes, Papa Rotini.
Sadly, the best part of the cupcake was its appearance. I won’t be eating any more cupcakes from Papa Rotini.
The hour I spent writing and reading at the coffee shop was absolutely lovely, the cozy space is great for curling up with a hot cup of java and a good book or for a chat with friends. The other patrons generally talk quietly among themselves, the music that plays is a nice mix of Korean, Japanese, European and American pop music. It’s quiet enough to not be intrusive, but provides enough background noise to make the cafe comfortable.
Papa Rotini’s excels at providing an excellent atmosphere in which to taste test terrible cupcakes.