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Artisan coffee comes to North Korea

Curious coffee lovers now have a reason to visit North Korea.

Pyongyang is home to a hip new coffeeshop serving “third wave” coffee — a buzzword that marks a recent generation of specialty and artisanal brews.

So reports Choson Exchange, a Beijing-based group that arranges internships and academic exchanges for promising young North Koreans. The organization’s head, Andray Abrahamian, recently stumbled on the café while visiting the capital.

The shop is unnamed, but it’s attached to a large restaurant and apparently offers a nice view of the Taedong River. Choson gives it an honest review.

The pour-over we had was unfortunately a bit off. The grind was too coarse and the beans slightly out of date by the standards of third wave cafes elsewhere. The espresso, however, was excellent, bursting with caramely and nutty flavors. The cappucino [sic] was good, also.

Why a coffeeshop? Unlike parts of the power-starved countryside, Pyongyang is home to an affluent class of politically favored North Koreans. Many are willing to spend $3.50 a cup, the group says.

A tall black coffee at Starbucks here in Seoul, meanwhile, costs not much less — at the equivalent of $3.20.

Some epicurean restaurants and one Austrian café have opened in Pyongyang. Many of them cater to local elites, foreign diplomats, and expatriates working for international organizations.

“The most interesting thing is that there is now a market for this in Pyongyang,” Abrahamian told GlobalPost by e-mail. “There is a class of consumers, increasing in size, who are both interested in international coffee culture and able to spend the money to partake in it.” 

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