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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Ulsan Coffee Bean Guide

I have spent the last few years finding out where the best places to buy beans are in Ulsan. Sadly, for this list, I have to cut “best” from the criteria and simply say “here is a list of where you can buy beans in Ulsan” because adding the word “best” would shorten the list to two places and that would not be at all interesting. For the sake of giving a fair and well-rounded list, I have included most of the places that sell coffee beans in Ulsan to give as many options to the reader as I can, regardless of quality and/or public opinion.

1. Roasting Cafes

There are a few roasting cafes around the city but not as many as other major cities however the two at the top of the list are worth the trip. Bean Stock Coffee has made the transition to solely producing beans for your enjoyment. With his homemade roaster, Mr. park carefully produces some of the best beans in the city. This is one of the oldest roasting cafes, if not the oldest in the city. If you are looking for carefully roasted beans and some “strong coffee” this is your place but sadly he no longer does the cafe portion of his establishment. You can find him near the Save Zone at the T-junction on the 2nd floor. Click the link for the full details. 6,000 ~ 10,000 won/1oo g

The new kid on the block is a small cafe in Namwei-dong, just behind Namwei Middle School. Falling into Coffee is a tiny cafe that is a power house of roasting goodness. With the ability to order in your favorite beans and roast them there for you, you are guaranteed to have fresh beans anytime. I personally love this cafe as it has been my primary source of beans for the past few months. I am slightly worried about how long it will last as a few cafes have moved into the neighborhood and are putting pressure on this tiny cafe. Price: 6,000 won/ 100g

There is also a roasting cafe now in the basement of the Hyundai Department Store. Like most things there, the prices are higher than other roasting cafes but the upside is that they give you a reusable container for your beans. The can be found next to the Burger King in the basement food court of the Hyundai department store in Samsan Dong.

2. Chain Cafes/ Coffee Shops

Some cafes around the city sell their branded beans. These beans are convenient to buy if that is what you are looking for. Most of the beans are not that greatest but for the average coffee drinker they could be spot on.

If there is only one cafe that I would recommend it would be Beans Bins because they make a decent effort to roast regularly. The dates and prices are clearly visible and usually the beans are quite fresh. The sad part is that they are usually over-roasted and that means that most of the beans have that indiscernible “smoky flavour” that masks the delicate flavours of the beans.  Price 6,000 ~ 8,000 won/100g

Starbucks keeps growing in Ulsan like a bad weed. When I ran my cafe in Vancouver we often  referred to starbucks as “Char-bucks” because of how awfully bad they burnt their beans. For years people have been duped into believing that greasy blackened beans with exotic titles like “Kamodo Dragon Dung Blend” is actually good coffee. For a long time I was one of them until I met with roasters and learned that I was horribly misguided. Although these beans are probably the easiest to get and offer the familiar sizes at decent prices, I still dislike them. However, there are people out there that love the flavour and thus, must be included on the list. Price 15,000 ~ 20,000+/250g

Angel-in-Us is a Korean chain that does sell beans. Be prepared to dust them off and have the look of confusion come over the cashier’s face as you attempt to buy them. I am not sure what their rotation is or if any actually buys them but they have them but possibly are there just for decoration. Look for the beans sandwiched between the angel-winged pencils and the shopping bags some where around the counter. Price (approx.) 15,000/250g

Tesoro has been expanding all across the city (and this is a good thing). I have seen locations in the Hanaro Mart on the way out to Guyeongli to the newest location in Namwei-dong just behind the major bus stop at Byeongyeong Sagori. This cafe chain always produces an above average cup of coffee. They do sell beans at certain locations but check with the counter person before as it might not be at all locations. Price 6,000 won/100g

Coffea Coffee is another Korean chain but this one was started by one of Korea’s top baristas. They roast their beans and it is possible to buy them as well. The last time I tried, they were out of pretty much everything and thus I left empty handed. To be honest, I like the place but I sort of felt like I was trying to bring a zombie back from the dead in order to get some beans and then only to have said-zombie roll her eyes and bark for an English-speaker though I was speaking Korean at the time. They do a good cup of coffee and no doubt have great beans… I just haven’t tried any. Price ???/100g

Hands Coffee  is another Korean chain that is picking up speed across the nation. With its trendy yellow exterior and darker interior they might be onto something… less cutie more coffee. The Mugeo-dong location has its own Hand Drip station and it is possible to pick up some beans. The last time I bought beans from them, it was before their “great expansion” and I remember them being nothing too special. That being said they could have changed up a lot of things since then, so I am not going to drop a price here because for I all I know they could be twice the price now.

3. Something a Little Different

If you are wanting the DIY approach but don’t want to shell out the won to buy a roaster, you can talk to the guys at The Reason Cafe and they will let you roast your own. It has been a while since I was last there, but how I found this out was when I asked for some beans the manager said that it was “too late” to roast. I then realized that when I first talked to him he was telling me about the “self serve” roasting machine.

4. Supermarkets

These days most of the supermarkets like Home Plus and E-Mart will carry either whole beans or ground coffee. More likely they will carry the ground coffee in various varieties like Jamaican Blue Mountain, Columbian, and various flavoured kinds. In most cases, the coffee has been there for awhile and especially the ground coffee, will be stale.

Places like Costco in Busan and Daegu have large bags of beans from Starbucks and even a fair trade option. You can use services like Korea Cost Cutters to order in your beans and then pick them up in Ulsan. However, unless you drink a ton of coffee a day, a 2 kg bag of beans is a waste of money. Despite what they say about freezing your beans, you shouldn’t buy more coffee than you can drink in a week… maybe 2 weeks at the most.

5. Online

Failing all other options you can purchase beans online and have them magically appear at your door in a few days through the magic of Korean Taek-bae (delivery). There are tons of beans to choose from on Gmarket, but one of the places that I just found actually understands the difficulties that some foreigners have when they try to order something in Korea. So they offer an email shopping service. The site is called Aliens Drink Coffee and they not only have a wide range of coffees and also tea as well.

So there you have it. This is the best guide that I could come up with for all your coffee needs here in Ulsan. I tried to be as complete as I could to give you, dear readers, the most options for your coffee bean needs. I hope that this will help you get set up and will have you drinking the best beans in not time.