When Antoinette Sontag, the Russian ambassador’s sister-in-law first gifted coffee to King Gojong in 1869, she probably had no idea how big of a cultural impact her little token of respect would have within the next millennium. King Gojong, being enamored by the robust beverage, turned this unfamiliar drink into a symbol of wealth and notoriety - under his rule, coffee was first introduced to Korea as an expensive delicacy afforded only by the richest of the rich.
However, it did not take long for everything to change quite drastically. With the appearance of the first coffee shops, mainly around Seoul, in 1927, coffee started to take over the nation’s heart, and it has only gained more and more popularity ever since.
South Korea to this day remains the biggest consumer of instant coffee in the world. But how did this change come to pass, and, more importantly, what is so special about Korean instant coffee that has so many people coming back to it day after day?