Life in Korea: Getting to Know the Cafe Owner

One of the things I enjoy the most about visiting cafes is getting to know the cafe owner. I enjoy sipping coffee and learning the origin stories of their cafes. They tend to be very interesting and many of them speak English well too. Here are three of my favorite cafes in Daegu and the backstories of the people who own them.

Minwoljae Cafe

Note to future self… if it doesn’t feel right, you’re probably sitting at the owner’s table.

I walked into Minwoljae Cafe, ordered a milk tea, and sat down on a bench facing a long table. It was there that I met Jin, the owner of Minwoljae Cafe. This place is a beautiful hanok cafe in Daegu. He was probably more embarrassed than I was, but he helped me set things right.

We sat and talked for a long time because he remembered traveling alone. He said I should try the black sesame coffee – his treat. He brought me a yummy lotus cookie rice cake too. I felt so welcomed. He was one of the first cafe owners who had ever approached me.

Honoring the Past

Jin learned English in the Philippines where he worked in the stressful casino industry. Afterward, he came back home to restore and renovate his grandma’s early 19th-century home into the absolutely beautiful cafe it is now. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I watched one person after another come in and just say ‘oooooh’ when they turned the corner and faced the large picture window into the courtyard. The only thing missing? Some floor pillows!

DeTryhe house specials: black sesame coffee, milk (black) tea, and the seasonal pomegranate ade plucked from a tree in the cafe’s courtyard.

Minwoljae Cafe (민월재) 

Address:  159-4 Goseong-ro, Buk-gu, Daegu
Korean Address: 대구 북구 고성로 159-4
Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 11:00 AM - 09:00 PM
Sat & Sun: 12:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Hyang Gallery & Cafe

Some cafes just don’t live up to your expectations- so you keep it moving. Lucky for us, Hyang Gallery & Cafe was right down the road and it looked interesting from the outside, so we parked and went in and this is what we found.

It was just what the doctor ordered. I needed a break from the fancy, polished theme cafes (that I love) for quaint, kitschy, heart-felt cafes (that I also love) where I can sit back, admire the view, talk to the owner, and know I am contributing to the local economy.

Hyang Gallery & Cafe is the love child of owner Park Sin Hyang. She is originally from Seoul and loves to travel Europe – the overriding theme of her cafe, which she opened 3 years ago. Sin Hyang became a cafe owner because she wanted to engage with her guests, especially foreigners.

Meeting New People

It’s evident she didn’t become a cafe owner to make money. She wanted to meet and talk to visitors, like us. And although neither of us spoke the other’s language, with the help of Google conversation, we had just that – conversation.

She has been to 20 countries in Europe and we shared our love of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. We had iced Americanos that we purchased, and plums and pretzels, which she provided free of charge or “service”. She serves coffees, teas, cakes, desserts, and bingsu.

My hubby, bless his heart can usually take a decent picture, but he screwed up when he took our picture (we both had bobbleheads) – thus nada. We enjoyed spending the afternoon at the gallery and hope to visit again.

Hyang Gallery & Cafe  (향갤러리&카페) 

Address:  343-12 Urok-gil, Gachang-myeon, Dalseong-gun, Daegu
Korean Address: 대구 달성군 가창면 우록길 343-7
Opening Hours: 11:00 AM - 06:00 PM

Tiyom Pink 

J. Ahn named his cafe after a kitten, Pink, that left the tiniest footprints in the wet concrete on the ground level of his brand new cafe in Cheongdo. The name Tiyom comes from his love of two things – titanium (his main business) and the meowing sound of cats, which he also loves.

Mr. Ahn, who recently turned 70, is the son of an apple farmer. However, after graduating from university with an agriculture degree, he realized he didn’t want to be a farmer and looked for another profession. 

The first thing you notice, after the pink titanium that is, is the large sliding glass door into the huge atrium. It reminded me of a chapel – turns out the roof is also retractable and can be opened to the sky in cooler weather. A few large bamboo trees take center stage in a circular garden area in the two-story main dining room. Mr, Ahn installed a tray lift.

Side Hustle

However, cafe owner is not his main job title. In 1977 he created a titanium business that now employs more than 500 people and is the sole titanium producer for the KR government. I said, “so you’re a rich man”. He said, “yes I am”. Lol!!

He opened Tiyom Pink a few months ago in May and surprise, surprise, the main construction material is titanium, pink titanium. The basket weave construction is beautiful, changing color & sparkles under the bright sun.

He was so proud of the bathroom, that he cut me off mid-sentence and told me to go look at it. The bathroom is really pretty, with three free-standing sinks in front of an atrium window filled with bamboo.

I ordered an apple ade and we chatted for more than an hour about his titanium business, our families, and politics. I learned some things about the cafe, for which I can say I helped design. He asked me which color of brick I liked, nodded, and handed it to his construction supervisor. Then, He told me I’d have to come back later to see how he used it.

The second floor has a stunning view of Yuhoyeonji pond, Gunjajeong pavilion, and the lotus flowers. Make sure you visit the 1st level bakery. There is additional seating around an aquarium (with plants, not water). Follow the tiny kitten paw prints on the concrete floor that inspired it all. 

Tiyom Pink (티욤핑크) 

Address:  34-11 Yeonjian-gil, Hwayang-eup, Cheongdo-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Korean Address: 경북 청도군 화양읍 연지안길 34-11
Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 10:00 AM - 08:00 PM
Sat & Sun: 10:00 AM - 09:00 PM

If you love cafes with a story, be sure to visit the three oldest cafes in Seoul! Click here to learn all about them.

🇺🇸 Stacey Peters

I started blogging, writing, and taking travel-related photos to stay in touch with my friends and family while I traveled around the world with my soldier. So far, we've lived on three continents and traveled to more than 70 countries. Every new country increases my desire to see more. I have a passion for history, wine, and new experiences. This is the third time we've been assigned to live in Korea. We had the chance to go anywhere, but we chose to return to Korea one last time before my husband retired from military service. We chose Korea over Germany because we have a lot of Korean National friends, we love the food, culture, and traditions. I have enjoyed living in Korea, but I realized I hadn't immersed myself in the community. I had a ton of "surface level" knowledge, and that's okay for some people. But not me. So we returned to Korea to take everything we had left on the table off. I have had many experiences understanding what to do but not why I should do it. So I intend to delve deeper, ask why instead of what, and find out what I don't know I didn't know. Lol.