The 5 Best Korean Coffee Brands (Plus Buying Tips)

If you ever visit Korea, you’ll be sure to see plenty of coffee establishments scattered around the city. And you’ll also find plenty of at-home coffee blends.

But, if you don’t get the chance to visit Korea, you can still enjoy some of the country’s coffee at home.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the history of Korean coffee and some of the best Korean coffee brands on the market. Let’s jump in!

History of The Korean Coffee Culture

history korean coffee

Coffee has always been a staple in Korea. And, it’s become a big part of Korean culture. But this was not always the case.

Coffee only started becoming a part of South Korea’s culture during the late 19th century. This was when King Gojong had the chance to try coffee, making him the first-ever Korean to do so!

In 1896, the Russian Ambassador’s sister-in-law, Antoinette Sontag, introduced coffee to the king. King Gojong enjoyed the coffee’s taste. He would always include coffee beans as his seal of royal approval.

Aside from being a part of the royal seal, only the upper classes from Korea could afford to buy coffee. Later, it became Korea’s symbol of modernization and for the country’s wealthy elite.

The Birth of Korean Instant Coffee

korean instant coffee

In 1927, coffee shops emerged in Korea. They are more famous for being called Dabangs, and they are mostly seen around Myeongdong Seoul. Dabangs are traditional Korean coffee shops serving coffee with savory cakes.

The birth of Dabangs also paved the way for a culinary revolution. In 1970, cafes also started to make a mark around the cities. These exclusive coffee shops catered to students and professionals. Instant coffee also started to become a hit in 1976!

The first company to introduce its instant coffee mix sachets was Dongsun Foods. And there were the Maxim coffee sticks. Because instant coffee has become famous, you don’t need to go to exclusive coffee shops to experience drinking.

Even an ordinary citizen can enjoy a cup by mixing instant coffee with water. And by 1990, South Korea had become the largest instant coffee consumer in the world. Koreans love it because it is trendy, cheap, and can last long.

What Makes Korean Instant Coffee Unique?

A significant difference Korean instant coffee has over the usual instant coffee packets is sugar control. You can pinch the sachet’s end for Korean instant coffee to control its sweetness.

Most instant coffee brands from Korea has a portioned sugar powder at the end. This helps you pour the right amount of sugar into your cup. The sugar control feature also helps you become more flexible with your cup of joe.

And, it still promotes convenience because you don’t need to get your sugar container to make a cup!

Health Benefits of Instant Coffee

health benefits of instant coffee

Studies have proven that instant coffee has several health benefits, including the following:

  • It has more antioxidants compared to filtered coffee
  • Instant coffee has less caffeine. Each cup only has 30 to 90 milligrams of caffeine.
  • There are clinical observations suggesting it can help improve brain function.
  • Instant coffee can also boost your metabolism because it helps you burn unwanted fats.

But, you should also know that instant coffee has more acrylamide than other coffee types. Acrylamide is a dangerous chemical that forms after roasting coffee beans.

But it’s still way below the harmful amount, so instant coffee is safe to consume.

Tips for Buying Korea’s Instant Coffee

Research is always key before purchasing Korea’s instant coffee. And before researching, several factors also come into play. These factors help you achieve a hassle-free buying process.

To help you, the following are relevant questions to ask yourself while researching a good Korean instant coffee:

  1. What are your expectations in buying Korean instant coffee?
  2. Are there features, flavors, or tastes you’re looking for in instant coffee?
  3. Is your budget flexible?
  4. How will your purchase your instant coffee?
  5. Where should you look for reliable information about various Korean instant coffee brands?

Knowing your budget and expectations makes it easier to do your research. Researching various can also help you determine each brand’s pros and cons. And, if you’re buying online, customer reviews are also helpful.

Testimonials from consumers can help you identify whether a specific brand is for you. You can also check the product’s rating to see if it meets customer expectations.

Top 5 Korean Coffee Brands

While most people think of good coffee coming from Colombia or Ethiopia, there are some great Korean coffee brands out there, too.

Here are the top five Korean coffee brands that you should know about.

1. Maxim

Pros

  • It’s HALAL-friendly, so it’s safe for Muslim consumers
  • Versatile coffee brand, so you can drink yours hot or cold
  • Light and smooth, so it’s also good for beginner drinkers
  • Affordable, so you can buy even when on a budget

Cons

  • The packets are too small, so you need at least two if you want stronger coffee.

Maxim definitely tops the list. It’s the most popular instant coffee brand in Korea and was started in 1976 by Dongsun Foods. It became a favorite within a short amount of time.

Maxim offers various blends and flavors, but Maxim Mocha Gold is a classic favorite by most consumers. This line has well-balanced flavors and is perfect for both iced and hot coffee.

One benefit of this brand is that its flavors are not too intense. This gives you a smooth and light coffee-drinking experience.

2. Namyang Coffee

Pros

  • It’s affordable, so anyone can buy this brand
  • Comes in various blends, so you’re sure to find one that suits your taste
  • Gives you strong coffee, so you get the caffeine kick you need
  • Perfectly balanced coffee, sugar, and cream, so the texture is smooth and rich

Cons

  • Too strong coffee is not suitable for beginner drinkers

Namyang is a famous Korean food company that sells several products. These include pastries and coffee beverages. This Korean coffee brand is best known for its Namyang French Coffee and instant coffee.

If you love Maxim, you’ll love Namyang Coffee too. The coffee’s taste is almost similar, giving you that velvety texture in every sip.

You will also enjoy the balanced blend of cream, coffee, and sugar.

Namyang has various coffee blends and roast types to choose from. Or, enjoy one of their flavored coffees such as hazelnut, cappuccino, caramel macchiato, or mocha choco.

3. Kanu Instant Coffee

Pros

  • Full-bodied coffee tastes, so you know you’re getting a good amount of caffeine.
  • A premium brand, so you’re guaranteed good-quality coffee
  • Rich flavors, ensuring all the coffee flavors are extracted well

Cons

  • Because it’s a premium brand, it has a higher price range.

Kanu Coffee is a premium instant coffee brand that makes intense brews. Unlike other coffee brands, Kanu ensures you get more than enough caffeine kick for your energy boost.

One of the reasons consumers love Kanu is their long list of special offers. This brand normally gives out free tumblers or mugs when buying instant coffee packets.

4. Lotte Coffee

Pros

  • Coffee’s intense flavor makes it the perfect cup to wake you up in the morning.
  • Premium packaging, making the coffee feel luxurious

Cons

  • It’s a premium brand, so it can be more expensive than other brands

Aside from instant coffee, Korea also has some good coffee drip brands. Lotte Coffee is one of those. This brand offers premium coffee, giving you a rich and full-bodied flavor profile in every cup.

Lotte Coffee also takes pride in producing luxurious packaging. And with its coffee’s intense flavors, you are guaranteed to get that energy boost you need.

Lotte Coffee also offers ready-to-drink coffee placed in cans for people on the go.

5. Maxpresso Instant Coffee

Pros

  • 100% freeze-dried coffee extract, so you get all the bold and rich flavours you want
  • It involves coconut oil creamer, so it helps improve your metabolism
  • Non-dairy creamer helps make your coffee creamy

Cons

  • Packets are small, so the caffeine content might not be enough.

If you want a healthy Korean coffee brand, try Maxpresso. This company guarantees instant coffee granules are freeze-dried at -40 degrees celsius.

Maxpresso is best known for its Espresso blend, which only requires 2.5 oz of hot water to dissolve the instant coffee powder. The freeze-drying process ensures that the coffee crystals’ quality is protected. And it preserves the aroma and flavor profile.

Maxpresso instant coffee also uses coconut oil creamer, a non-dairy alternative. This gives you a perfectly sweetened instant coffee.

Try The Best Korean Coffee Brands

Korea is definitely more than the famous songs, bands, and series. It also has some of the best coffee blends on the market!

Try Maxpresso Instant Coffee if you want healthy coffee. This brand uses non-dairy coconut oil creamer that can even help your metabolism. And it can also burn unwanted calories!

But if you prefer plain black coffee with intense flavors, we suggest trying instant coffee from Kanu. Just keep in mind that it’s a premium brand, so it’s expensive.

Don’t miss out on your chance to try these famous Korean coffee brands, and enjoy exploring a new side of Korean culture.