Vetro Coffee, Seogwipo, Jeju, South Korea
In 1732 the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach was quoted as saying: “Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine!” If a picture is worth a thousand words then that sentence must be the literary equivalent of a photo exhibit. Coffee is many things to many people, but for this reporter, it is an important and necessary daily ritual. For me, coffee is more than just a drink: it is my own quiet cup of solstice amongst the chaos that is an English teacher’s lifestyle. That being said, when I am not preparing my own cup of percolated pleasure, I buy it in the downtown section of “High Five” city (Seogwipo) at Vetro Coffee. A place that is as much about the atmosphere as it is about the superb selection of cafe noirs.
A background to Vetro
Vetro, meaning Windows in Italian, came into being 8 years ago. At that time, there were only a handful of coffee shops in the south side vicinity offering a truly western attempt at coffee brewing. The shop is a small and charming place with a truly welcoming atmosphere. The proprietor of the cafe is Joongki Jeon and to say he is affable would be an understatement. I have known Jeon for almost two years and understand him to be an extremely cordial and engaging host amongst the foreigner community. Vetro Coffee literally is the “place where everybody knows your name”. Jeon, takes a vested interest in his customers and knows the majority of them on a first name basis. In addition, he also speaks English, Korean, and Japanese, making for some rather interesting cross language and cross-cultural discussions.
Aside from this, however, Jeon is an accomplished barrista offering an excellent variant of a dark and robust flavoured Arabian bean. Furthermore, unlike the majority of coffee shops on Jeju, Jeon actually roasts his own coffee beans, taking the time and care to hand prepare each and every one. Having some personal experience in this area, I can assure you that this process is a lot more complicated then it sounds. There is a fine juggling act between under and over roasting a bean to maximize its flavor potential.
Making the perfect cup
In the world of coffee, there are ultimately five factors which dictate the terms involved in producing a full-bodied and flavour optimized cup: cultivating, roasting, grinding, brewing and intuitive/artistic flair. One could have all of the key ingredients but lack the intuitive and artistic feeling required to make a decent cup. To quote an old Korean proverb: “The best cook comes from the tip of the finger.” In other words, the simple act of following a coffee recipe does not guarantee optimal taste. One must understand both the characteristics of the materials and possess the ability to synergize their attributes. At Vetro coffee this is something that is always taken into account with each and every cup. At the end of the day, a cup of coffee is only as good as the barrista who brews it, and it is the humble opinion of this reporter that Vetro boasts the finest barrista on Jeju.
Vetro Coffee is located on the main shopping street in Seogwipo, across Baskin Robins and a Nonghyup Bank.
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