Located in the cozy neighborhood of Ilgok-dong, away from the busy and loud streets of downtown Gwangju, family-run coffee shop Sage (세이지) is the perfect place for those who long for a cup of coffee in a homelike atmosphere. With its charming homely décor and delicious homemade teas, as well as a voluminous collection of books and board games, Sage welcomes everyone – from families looking for fun on a Sunday afternoon, to couples wishing for a relaxed, but fun date off the beaten path, and high schoolers in desperate need of a break from their studies.
Even though Sage is not located in the heart of Gwangju’s unique coffee shop district, it is fairly easy to reach by bus number 7, that goes there directly from many of the most popular areas around downtown.
The address is: 33-1, Ilgoktaekji-ro 99beon-gil, Buk-gu, Gwangju
Once you reach the Seoil Elementary School bus stop, it is just a 10-minute walk away.
There are several buses that can be taken from different locations around Gwangju. It is also convenient for Chonnam National University students, some of whom might prefer to get around by bike, since it is only a 20 to 30-minute bike-ride away.
The menu is reasonably priced, and includes everything from coffee, homemade teas, smoothies, to cakes, ice cream, and even beer!
I have personally visited Sage on numerous occasions – to study, play board games with friends, or just read – and I’ve tasted the most delicious coffee, affogato, and cheesecake.
Nevertheless, I would have to say that my personal favorite is an extra treat that the owner prepares himself and serves with every drink – roasted coffee beans covered in chocolate. If you like to snack on roasted coffee beans as much as I do, you will understand me when I say that having this delicacy dipped in chocolate is one of many reasons I keep going back to Sage!
Speaking of handmade, all of the tea bases (sweet, thick, pulpy syrups known as ‘cheong’ in Korean) for popular teas in Korea (such as 유자차 – yuja tea, 자몽차 – grapefruit tea, 모과차 – quince tea) are indeed handmade by the lady of the house herself.
Another remarkable effort this family makes is the one to protect the environment. This family-run coffee shop has joined hands with the Environmental Conservation Organization called ‘Cafe Latte Club‘. What does this mean? It means they wash, cut out, and send milk packs for proper recycling after having used the milk in the coffee shop.
One more reason why I’m ready to get on my bike on a nearly daily basis and cycle for 20 minutes, passing numerous coffee shops along the way, is the truly homely vibe of Sage. Once you enter, you will really feel as if you entered the extended home of the owner. It is said that by looking at the books a person reads one can get an idea of the person’s personality. In Sage, you could spend hours getting lost in the private collection of books the owner has put out to share with his neighbors and customers.
You can find books on almost anything – books about the cosmos, science, physics, humanities, novels, poems. Unfortunately, none of the books are in English. However, if you have at least a basic knowledge of Korean, I guarantee you will be able to find a book you could enjoy. Another passion of the owner is photography. Therefore, naturally, he put his camera-related collection on display in his extended home, as well.
Fulfilling the atmosphere is the relaxing music. At Sage, do not expect to hear your default coffee shop playlist, or the usual mix of pop-songs that are popular at the moment and can be heard around every corner. The owner, who is also known to be a music lover, carefully chooses the daily playlist, finding inspiration not only in his personal music taste, but everywhere he goes. Since creating a place of comfort in his coffee shop is always on his mind, sometimes, he mentions, if he hears a song on TV or elsewhere that he believes would fit the soul of Sage, he will quickly look it up and add it to the playlist.
Last but not the least, my personal favorite part of the coffee shop experience are the board games. Since it is not a board game café, there are no limitations or extra charges for enjoying the wide variety of board games on offer. As you can see in the picture below, the shelves are packed with board games ready for you to enjoy with your friends or family for as long as your heart desires. (Note: all of the board games are in Korean, so you might need a bit of assistance from Google Translate or Papago if Korean is not your greatest strength!)
Another especially charming part of Sage in winter are the pillow-like warmers that can be found right next to the entrance. You can use them to warm yourself up after coming in from the freezing outdoors.
Finally, in case you would like to bring a piece of Sage‘s homely atmosphere with you as a souvenir, there is also a cupboard with teas, coffee beans, and other small gifts such as cushions, candle holders, and flower pots for sale.
Unfortunately, due to the current social distancing rules and regulations in connection to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, at the moment all coffee shops in Gwangju are not allowed to receive customers to sit in. Nevertheless, as soon as the ban on sit-ins is lifted, I will for sure be the first one to run back to Sage, and I do hope to meet some of the KoreabyMe writers, readers, fellow Gwangju residents, and other Gwangju visitors there!
To find out more about Sage before visiting, follow their Instagram page on the link below: