A diamond in the rough

Kohinoor (PHOTO: Kim Da-hye)

Kohinoor in Gugal Dong
(PHOTOS: Kim Da-hye)

In front of Kangnam University is a café called Kohinoor, owned and operated by Lee Kun-ju. The name Kohinoor comes from a famous diamond. It was also the name of the jewelry store where Lee and his wife bought a gem after getting married.

Lee got his start in coffee five years ago. After he and his friend learned about coffee from Heo Yung-man, they opened a café called Arista. Lee opened Kohinoor in July 2010.

Kohinoor's coffee roaster (PHOTO: Kim Da-hye)

Kohinoor’s coffee roaster

Customers who enter Kohinoor surely notice the large roasting machine in the front of the shop. Lee believes in giving Kangnam University students the best possible coffee for a low price. The best coffee is fresh coffee, which is why he roasts his own beans.

Running a business, however, is not always easy. Offering a high quality product for a low price means working down a side street where it is cheaper. Vacations and holidays are not busy either. Since most students are away from campus, he makes money only six months out of the year. Lee, however, does not give up. He offers take-out drinks for a lower price and constantly updates his menu. No matter what marketing he tries, Lee never stops trying to make the best-tasting coffee he can.

Kohinoor owner Lee Kun-ju prepares coffee. (PHOTO: Kim Da-hye)

Kohinoor owner Lee Kun-ju prepares coffee.

Lee’s vision is of a café that is small but strong. He also wants to help others who dream of opening their own café. He hopes to one day connect small cafés to each other, purchasing beans cooperatively and sharing ideas.

“If you want to open a café,” Lee tells students, “give it a try! You are young. Just remember it is not as easy as it looks. If you do decide to have your own café, be sure it reflects who you are and that your coffee has its own taste.”

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