Unlike many other countries with mass coffee consumption, the public was introduced to instant products prior to freshly brewed coffee through the U.S. forces in South Korea in 1950s. The prevalence of Da-bang, a teahouse which was an older version of modern cafes, imprinted instant coffee as typical caffeinated drinks to South Koreans, while the place functioned as a focal point for politicians, young intellectuals and artists.
In 1976, Dongsuh Foods Corporation popularized three-in-one coffee mixes in a single sachet, the first of its kind invention in the world. The innovation lies in its simplicity that people did not have to prepare soluble coffee, powdered creamer and sugar separately. The convenient caffeinated drinks penetrated into offices, restaurants and homes. The accelerated caffeination, in consequence, enlarged the pie of the instant coffee market in South Korea.
South Koreans started appreciating the true value of brewed coffee in 2000s with mushrooming franchises. The South Korean cafe industry has reached a saturation within two decades. In 2017, the mega coffee shops by the store quantity were counted as Starbucks, Angel-in-us, Ediya Coffee, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Tom N Toms, a Twosome Place, and Hollys Coffee. The rivals have competed vigorously across different domains such as dessert menu, discount policies and user-friendly services. Many offer reading rooms where visitors can study or work in a group using laptops, video projectors and whiteboards. To this end, the meaning of sitting in a cafe have great resemblance to spending time at Da-bang which served as a vehicle of socialization.
Coffee drinkers have presented a polarization in consumption, from choosing budget options in convenience stores to exploring specialty flavors in local roasteries. The merchandisers have strived to diversify the origin of coffee beans, enhance their own roasting skills, and develop coffee machines for households. As a reflection of their efforts, a survey conducted in 2016 suggested that coffee has reversed the rank of the most loved non-alcoholic beverages in South Korea. As South Koreans are keen on experiencing new recipes, which has created fads, for example, in nitro cold brew and uniquely blended coffee, the cafe industry is bound to be sophisticated.