The review of 2 Korean Coffee Franchises

Jeonghun Park

박정훈 5-1

Coffee shops or Cafés are everywhere in Korea. The claim that there are more Starbucks in Seoul than in New York is proven true. So, it would not be wrong to call drinking coffee a national pastime. There are numerous franchises that sell coffee or coffee-based drinks inside their stores.  Some are satisfactory, some are not. Before I begin, I am not a coffee expert who can distinguish every bean and pinpoint the inadequate process of preparing a coffee. However, as a coffee enthusiast, these are the very personal reviews of mine based on my preference of coffee, and because we are a business school, I will compare the strengths and weaknesses of these two brands.

To begin with, I will start off with Ediya coffee. Edyia coffee is a Korean brand that has small coffee shops where they sell their drinks. Their name means emperor of the continent in Ethiopian language. However, they do not use Ethiopian beans, according to my knowledge. Because they do not have impressive brand equity such as Starbucks, they price significantly less than their counterparts. For example, their americano is 2800 won in standard size. Compared with Starbucks, where they charge 4100 won for a cup of americano. Moreover, their strategy is to make small stores as many as possible; 2000 stores in Korea, you can find them easily when you walk down the financial district of Seoul, or tourist districts such as Gwanghwamun. Due to its small size, they do not have many chairs or tables you can relax. However, because of this, they can maintain low price of their drinks. Because I am a coffee enthusiast, I tend to not drink other drinks sold in café such as orange juice, green tea latte etc. From my experience, their coffee is cheap and mediocre. Their low price point is a huge advantage for people who are on a budget, wanting to take a sip of a coffee. However, there was one case when I had a terrible experience at their store. It was in 2015, I had a lunch, and I decided to have some coffee. I went to their store. I ordered americano as always, but the coffee came out quick. Too quick for a coffee. From my knowledge, I never heard there was an innovation in coffee preparation that reduces preparation time to half. The reason was the clerk made about 300ml of espresso to shorten her time to prepare a drink. According to “Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee” you should dispose espresso shots if it is more than 20seconds old. However, that clerk was holding to it for more than 30 minutes. Moreover, they have sometimes poor employee training. Like the case I mentioned before, their employees are not well trained in many cases. One of my acquaintance who is a trained barista, he would always exclude it as an option for having a cup of coffee. Because of their overall service quality. In other words, if you are a coffee expert you might not enjoy their coffee.

The next place I visit is called Paul Bassett. It is named after a barista, who won the world barista championship. After winning he made a coffee shop in Japan. Maeil Dairies got the right to use his brand in Korea. I started to drink their coffee in 2014. At first, a single cup of lungo, which is a counterpart of americano sold by many café, even though it is not prepared as such in Italy, cost approximately 5.7 thousand won. It was very expensive. A café with comparatively low brand equity having their products priced high, felt very strange. After I found that I could get 20% discounts, I started to visit there. The coffee tasted different than another café. Usually, from my knowledge on coffee, because dark roasted Arabica was introduced in Korea, when people think of coffee, they tend to think it as a bitter drink. However, based on my flavor profile, it had some acidity associated with it. In first encounter, I felt strange. To borrow a term from marketing, coffee positioned in my mind should be bitter and have a smoky taste. I felt bizarre. After multiple visits, I began to understand that coffee could be bitter, but it can also contain acidity. Paul Basset has grown in almost double since I last visited there. Maeil Dairies are aggressively increasing their stores in department stores, and main streets of Seoul. As they double in size, a new problem has surfaced. There was a claim that there is a variance between their stores. In other words, some menus taste different in other stores. I was skeptical of this, until I experienced a service failure that made me send an official complaint to their headquarters. Because I am a loyal customer for them, they occasionally send coupons or free vouchers that I can use to order menus for free. There is a menu called “Coffee with Barista”, which is if you order it, you can choose the type of utensil to prepare the coffee. For example, you can choose Chemex, Aeropress, and French press for your coffee. After choosing the tools, the barista will ask you for your preferred type of beans, and she or he would prepare the coffee right in front of you and explain the process of brewing it. I was very impressed, when I ordered that menu. It costs 6000 won per cup, I had a free drink voucher, so I enjoyed it without any outlay costs. However, when I ordered the same menu in a different store, the staff did not know how to prepare the menu, they gathered around and discussed how to prepare it. They had no idea how to prepare the menu. I was very disappointed. 6000won per cup is not cheap for me. If I order such, I have higher expectation on the quality of the service. If you are fan of stronger coffee, with a bit of acidity, you can visit Paul Bassett and pay almost the double of Ediya for a cup.

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