Seoul’s King of Coffee: Meet Mr Camel

By Drake's

Jun 12, 2024

Seoul’s King of Coffee: Meet Mr Camel

People take coffee seriously in South Korea, a country with 100,000 coffee shops and home to the certified biggest in the world, a 2,190-capacity, strip-lit behemoth called Positive Space 566. Walk down the street in Gangnam-gu and you can hardly move for minimalist spaces offering speciality lattes, speciality matcha, and speciality matcha lattes. The iced Americano is a way of life around these parts.

Sitting at the top of the pile is Camel Coffee, a small empire of tastefully-appointed cafes founded by Kanghyun Park, who goes by Mr Camel—a nickname semi-accidentally bestowed upon him by Drake’s Creative Director Michael Hill during their first meeting a few years ago. He liked it so much, it stuck. “It started as just the brand name,” he says with a Hollywood smile, “but now everyone knows me as Mr Camel.” 

“I started my career in fashion,” he says, sat on a bench outside of his recently-renovated Gangnam space, a short walk from Drake’s Dosan. It’s a Saturday morning and he’s dressed in running gear. Couples and families amble into the cafe on a quiet street. Birdsong and sunshine. 

 “I never studied design, but I’d describe myself as a ‘lifestyle artist,' I’m inspired by the world around me. It could be the colour from an item of clothing that will spark an idea, or a conversation, or something I see out in my daily life.”

So far that inspiration has led to 11 coffee shops in Seoul, one in the coastal city of Busan, and a recently opened space in LA’s trendy Silver Lake neighbourhood that’s become a hit on social media, with people queuing for up to an hour for a taste of the Camel Experience: great coffee, and a pleasant place to drink it. It sounds simple, but many have tried and more have failed. 

“Koreans like aesthetic,” he says. “They want somewhere that is pretty, but also somewhere with a relaxed pace where they can catch up with friends and take photos. You have to offer something different if you want to be successful here. We’re always looking at new approaches, new concepts and creating an experience that is memorable.”

“Everyday is busy, but that’s what keeps me going.” 

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