The Secrets Behind Coffee Dates in Korea

The Secrets Behind Coffee Dates in Korea


Coffee shops are a huge part of Korean life. So it’s no surprise that they play a role in dating.

Before we get into the how and why, let’s take a quick look at the history of Korean coffee shops and dating.

Dabangs and Dating

Korea’s first coffee shop, called a “dabang” or “tearoom,” was built in 1902 during Japanese colonization. It was locating in the Sontag Hotel in Seoul and served the wealthy and royalty.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Modern-style coffee houses started appearing in the 1920s. Until the 1950s, they mostly catered to artists, writers, and musicians. During the Korean War, they were also hotspots for political discussions.

In the 1960s, the coffee shops became places to socialize and make appointments (or “yaksok”) for middle-class people. These yaksok dabangs were used for business meetings, study sessions, friendly get-togethers, and yes, blind college dates.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Music dabangs were especially popular in the 1970s. Here, DJs would play the latest hits and take song requests. What could be more romantic than having the DJ play your sweetheart’s favorite song?

Hakrim Dabang (open since 1956)

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Coffee shops have changed a lot, especially with the invention of vending machines and the rise of themed cafes and coffee chains. However, you can still find some old dabangs operating in Korea today.

Dating in Korea

Why are cafes and coffee shops popular with young couples?  There are a few reasons: free WiFi, a much-needed caffeine and sugar boost, and a certain level of privacy they won’t get at home, especially for university students living on campus.

(Kim Se-jeong and Ahn Hyo-seop in “Business Proposal” Credits to the rightful owner)

Most couples meet through blind dates set up by friends (sogaeting), dating apps, or random encounters on the street. Despite restrained PDA (no kissing in public!), Korean dating is more intense than Western dating in a few ways.

For example, the 3-day-rule doesn’t apply here. (The 3-day-rule is waiting three days before contacting a potential date.) You are expected to text right after you exchange numbers. Once you start, you’ll be glued to your phone throughout the day! If you start texting less, the other person might think you’re losing interest and may even “ghost” you.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

If the first date goes well, then it’s a whirlwind of young love. Think couple outfits, couple rings, shared drinks, and meals, and celebrating events like the 100-day anniversary and White Day. There are so many ways to show everyone how much your relationship means to you!

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Before all that happens, you need to be sure the person is right for you. This is where “the coffee test” comes in.

Looking for a gift? Get your special someone their very own Seoulbox!

The Coffee Test

The coffee test is the most important part of the first date. The day starts in a café with a coffee.

(Lee Dong-Wook and Yoo In-Na in “Touch Your Heart”  Credits to the rightful owner)

By the time you sit down for that americano or latte, you probably have a good sense of this person. It’s time to show whether you want to continue dating or not.

Usually, the man pays for both the coffee and dinner after the coffee date. However, the date will go till dinner if the woman likes the guy, and let the guy pay for the coffee. But if she doesn’t like him, she will suggest paying for her own coffee (only). And the man loses a chance at a romantic relationship.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

The coffee test is a simple but important part of dating. Westerners might not be aware of it, which is why education and communication is key. And remember, even if you decide not to become a couple, there’s a good chance you may become friends.

Some Cafés to Check Out

There are so many cafes to choose from in Korea. We’ve picked a few to visit for a romantic getaway.

Banana Tree

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Like the name suggests, this café has banana- and flower-themed décor. The “Flower Paap” desserts come in cute pots, and the SomSaTang Latte is made and decorated with cotton candy. It’s a perfect date for spring or any season!

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Address: 10 Apgujeong-ro 4-Gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

From Theo Coffee

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Is your date artistic? Then stop by this vintage café. As you wait for your order, you can paint a card together. While the café’s orange latte and Russian cake are excellent, their hot chocolate is also very popular.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Address: 373-13 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Coffee Hanyakbang 

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

If you’re looking for a retro café, this is the place to be. Tucked away in an alley, this coffee house serves drip coffee roasted on-site. It’s also a great place to take photos for Instagram.

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Address: 16-6 Samil-daero 12-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul

943 King’s Cross

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner) 

A must-stop for Harry Potter fans. The café offers a Wizard Set for 2, which includes two desserts and options for drinks like the Wizard’s Chocolate, coffee, and butterbeer (a non-alcoholic version is available). They also have the 943 Set for 1, so single people don’t feel left out!

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Address: 24 Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Korean Songs about Coffee

(Image: Credits to the rightful owner)

Here are some tracks to add to your playlist, whether you work at a coffee shop or want something to listen to as you sip your mocha.

Americano (10cm) – Americano is the most popular coffee in Korea, so of course it has its own song. Stays may recognize the tune sung by Stray Kids’ Hyunjin and Han during the infamous Americano incident.

Coffee (BTS) – This ballad from the group’s “O!RUL8,2?” album compares their love interest to different kinds of coffee. It’s a chill song with surprisingly sad lyrics that is perfect background music on a rainy day.

Love in the Milky Way Café (10cm) – Want more proof that coffee and romance go hand in hand? The band name-drops neighborhoods known for their cafes (“…Hongdae Sangsu-dong Sinchon Ewha Woman’s University”) and admits that “I come here every day listening to the same song.” That’s love for you.

Now you know about coffee dates in Korea. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t work out. At the very least, you’ll have a new café to visit with your friends!

Stay connected with us and discover the beautiful Korean culture, exciting content and get to know our Seoulteam better. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestTikTok

Author: Sophia

Back to blog

Leave a comment


Craving some more? How about with Korean snacks!

Yes, you, you hit the right spot! Treat yourself to a box filled with unique snacks, exclusive K-pop merch, and K-beauty essentials, all sourced directly from Korea. Relish the thrill of exploring Korea each month and feel its heartbeat closer than ever!