As you can well imagine, North Korea doesn’t have any starbucks cafes, but doesn’t mean the world’s most isolated country has been shut off from the global thirst for urban coffee bistros. Here, we take a look at Cafes in North Korea, starting with a with a high end outlet in downtown Pyongyang that styles itself as a “Sunrise Coffee“. Targeted at elites and diplomats, this fancy venue seems to know exactly what is required to develop a quality and stylish cafe, offering its clients a broad range of drinks and snacks that would put it on bar with any of its international competitors!
Sunrise Coffee is located in Pyongyang’s district of Mansudae, that is of course the area surrounding the two bronze statues which take the same name. Not surprisingly, this is a wealthy district of the city and with many new apartment blocks present, it has a modern suburban feel to it. Nearby the Coffee shop sits the Mansudae People’s Theatre. The cafe itself is located in the upstairs of a larger building which hosts a number of import supermarkets and expat shops. It is not a coincidence that on visiting the cafe, the guides will also take you to these venues. The unusual thing about this and similar other Cafes in North Korea is that their presence is not revealed from the street level, but seemingly tucked away inside.
Once inside, you will that Sunrise Coffee is an elaborately decorated venue. A great deal has been invested in making a fancy interior. It consists of small chandeliers, an elaborate carpet, pillars surrounding the walls, a well lit up bar facility, fancy furniture and sofas and even Romanesque statues holding clocks. As you can see from the photos, its designed to be much more “up market” than your casual Starbucks or Costa Coffee. In effect, it wants to make foreigners feel comfortable whilst deliberating a service to the “best of the best” within the DPRK itself.
So what does it have to offer? Apart from the obvious range of Coffees, the menu of Sunrise Coffee is quite extensive. There are soft drinks available, milkshakes, a range of high end alcohols and spirits which include Jim Bean, Malibu and Ballantine (it has quite the bar) but also a wide range of western snacks and meals. One may order things such as french fries, burgers, freshly made sandwiches and delis and cakes. The food provided was made with a high quality. When finally paying, one may note that the cafe also possess a card machine, not of course for international cards, but for local North Korean debit and credit cards. Surprising!
A bacon sandwich prepared in the cafe
Overall, the rise of cafes in North Korea are another indication of changing lifestyles in the country, well at least in its capital! In having such venues, it is another indication that the country is more in line with the trends of the outside world than some would ever believe, the name “Sunrise Coffee” itself being strong evidence of that. People in the DPRK see business opportunity in developing their own urban cafe culture, who would have thought it?