Dabang: The OG South Korean Coffee Houses

Abhilasha Rawat, Pune, Maharashtra

Want to visit some hidden gems in South Korea? Dabangs are the answer! Before major coffee franchises took over the coffee culture in South Korea, dabangs played an important role in Korean social and cultural life. 

Hakrim Dabang (Picture Credits: VISITKOREA)


Dabang is a combination of two Korean characters: ‘da’ (tea) and ‘bang‘ (room). While dabang translates to the phrase “tea room,” dabangs were well-known for serving tea, coffee and many other refreshments. Other words for dabang are Dasil, Daejeon, and Chatjip.

History of Dabangs in South Korea

Dabang culture dates back thousands of years. For instance, during the Unified Silla period (668–935) Daejeon Won was a special room to drink and enjoy tea. In the 19th century, Korea was exposed to Western culture and numerous dabang-style establishments grew rapidly. Around the late Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire, foreign envoys were welcomed with tea ceremonies, leading to the establishment of pioneering dabangs by foreigners in Incheon. Ms. Sontag, a German-Russian national, established the first hotel-style dabang in Seoul in 1902 to serve foreign diplomats. This initiative paved the way for the development of the hospitality industry in the country.

Picture Credits: Creatrip

However, the modern dabangs are believed to have originated in South Korea in the 1920s, during Japanese colonial rule. During that time, there were many coffee houses that were primarily located in Myeongdong and Jongno. From the 1920s to the 1950s, dabangs were thought to be a sacred place for elite Korean art to be displayed and discussed. Dabangs were said to have been places of discussion, musicals, poetry recitals, and cultural events for poor Korean artists.

Picture Credits: Creatrip

Popularity of Dabangs

During the 1960s and 1980s, dabang culture underwent a drastic transformation. Dabangs evolved from being a sacred art space to a frequented meeting place for people of all ages and genders. People started meeting up at dabangs as there were very few places to meet. They became a place for business meetings, blind dates and a place to rest. Due to the absence of cell phones during this time period, it was important to determine a firm meeting time and place before the meeting. It was therefore common to set the meeting location at a dabang. Those who arrived first enjoyed a drink while they waited for the other party. As a result, many places were called “Yaksok Dabang”, yaksok means appointment.

Picture Credits: Kookje Daily News

Music dabangs also became popular during this time period! DJs played the latest hits at dabangs since people could only listen to music if they had record players. 

Picture Credits: pet paper

Popular items at Dabangs 

Instant coffee

In dabangs, instant coffee powder was used to make coffee. When making their coffee, the ratio of coffee to cream to sugar was very important. Apparently, each person has slightly different taste buds, so the workers usually ask for the ratio they prefer when making coffee for them.


The traditional Korean herbal tea known as Ssanghwa-cha is made with liquorice, cinnamon, and astragalus in hot water. After that, dates or pine nuts are added to the raw egg yolk. The tea is said to relieve fatigue and warm the body up.

Whiskey Tea 

It is a mix of black tea and whiskey. Since whiskey in a shot was too expensive, it was sold by adding it to black tea. 

Iced Coffee

It is a coffee beverage served cold. The coffee is brewed and served over ice or with cold milk. Sweeteners and flavouring are added during brewing as they dissolve faster.

Chik extract 

Known for its health benefits, Chik extract or the Arrowroot drink is a pure herbal drink with no additives. While the drink itself tastes quite bitter and woody, it is a popular order in dabangs!   

Modern-Day Dabangs

Dabangs have gradually faded away as coffee vending machines gained popularity in the 1990s, and espresso-based cafes became more popular. Additionally, the opening of the first Starbucks in South Korea in 1999 and the rise of take-out culture affected dabangs. Consequently, some dabangs became illegal prostitution establishments. Even today, some places are operating under the same name as a “dabang”, which facilitates illegal sex trafficking. However, there are still some dabangs that remain the same as before! 

Hakrim Dabang (Picture Credits: VISITKOREA)

Popular Dabangs: Past and Present

  • Futami in Myeongdong
  • Mt. Kumgang in Chungmuro
  • Kakadu in Kwanhun-dong
  • Troica in Myeong-dong
  • Dolce near Seoul Station
  • Eulji Dabang in Chungmuro
  • Hakrim Dabang in Myeongnyun
  • Nakrangapara in Sogong-dong

BTS 2021 Season’s Greetings at a Dabang:

Video Credits: BANGTANTV

Which dabang would you love to visit in South Korea? Let us know in the comments below.

38 Comments Add yours

  1. Moumita Mondal says:

    Wow the backstory is interesting. Wanna try each and every dabang in S.K . Thanks for sharing this information with us❤


    🤩🤩🤩wowww 🤩🤩

  3. dasbandita288 says:

    The cafe’s name is so cool

    1. Anonymous says:

      Great article… loved the concept

      1. susmitasamantajwmarriott says:

        Amazing & interesting 👏

      2. Amazing inputs. Want to try all these Dabangs someday ❤️

  4. hema13srini says:

    Woww!This is absolutely an interview read 🤗🤗🤗

  5. SVT says:


  6. Sruthi E P says:

    Well written 🫰

  7. aqsazea12 says:

    Dabang 🤩

  8. susmitasamantajwmarriott says:

    Amazing & interesting 👏…

  9. Gangavathi S says:

    Woah I like this idea so much. I wish these would b able in India too. It would b so good for Students to visit n hang out.

  10. Swapnil Sinha says:

    What a back story 🙂

  11. shreeyuktabanerjee says:

    this is so cool!!

  12. mamonim161 says:

    The history behind Dabang is quite fascinating. And the tradition is really old, but I like the fact that it still blends well with the modern era and keeps its own beauty as well. I love to visit all of the Dabangs😍🙌

  13. asmapandey12 says:

    Amazing 😍 – Asma Pandey

  14. SABITRI MANNA says:

    The backstory is quite interesting!!



  16. areezasaifi1 says:


  17. Rahana says:

  18. Navya Sharma says:

    Great backstory!

  19. Tirna says:

    This is the first time I read about Dabang and the history is intriguing. Wonderful article. -Tirna

  20. priyadharsini2884 says:

    The history of Dabang is so fascinating

  21. sheetalkataria08 says:

    Simply WOW ✨️🌷

  22. Dikshitha says:

    Would love to visit Music Dabang ❣️❣️

  23. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I was totally unaware of such an beautiful history of da bangs .. so informative and well researched article ^^

    Pranjul Sharma

  24. rynwrsi says:


  25. Neha Tarekar says:

    That is some research! It was good to read ☺️

  26. Shilpa says:

    Nice article 💜

  27. Anonymous says:

    Great Article 💫💜

  28. Devanshi Bisht says:

    Great Article ✨

  29. Aayushi mishra says:

    As a coffee and tea lover this is a must read!!

  30. aanchaltekriwal says:

    Reading this article made me picture the exotic aroma of coffee as a fond companion on a romantic autumn evening at the dabang coffee house, that should be a nostalgic recollection that belongs to the older generations.

  31. Would love to visit someday❤️

  32. shaikhanjum999xy says:

    Amazing 😍

  33. This is so amazing! I’d like to visit all Dabangs if i get the chance

  34. I’d like to visit all Dabangs if i get the chance

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