As a red-blooded American, I have occasionally been guilty of thinking the world revolves around the U.S.A. Go ahead, call me an Imperialist Asshole. I try to remind myself it’s not whenever this happens. But, in Korea, with American-style English being crammed in the brain of every child, a McDonald’s on every corner, and usually a Starbucks right next to it, it’s not always easy.
The popular music scene, however, is often a great way to remember. K-Pop dominates. Occasionally, too, a song from elsewhere in the world catches ROK ears, a song that barely registers, if at all, in the United States.
In the mid-1990s, that song was “Lemon Tree.”
Written and performed by German band Fool’s Garden, their third album, “Dish of the Day” unleashed this quirky song upon the world, even in the U.S. But, as a teenager at that time, I never heard of it. While it barely made a dent in America, it exploded in Korea, to the point that whenever I have told Korean friends and co-workers that I’d never heard of it, they are flabbergasted.
It’s easy to see why. It became part of their public consciousness. So pervasive has “Lemon Tree” been, you will hear the song in Korean classrooms filled with children that weren’t even a glimmer in their “Oppa’s neun” when it was released; you will see its name on things that have nothing to do with music, including clothing stores and, of course (because this is “All the Coffee in Korea”), coffee shops.
Located in the Yulha section of Jangyu (which is technically west Gimhae, but might as well be its own city as a large, mostly barren highway separates east from west), the “Yulha Cafe Street” is roughly about 10 blocks of commerce, comprised mostly of cafes that sell coffee in one form or another. There are chains (Starbucks, Cafe Bene), themes (Dog Dog, the dog cafe, the TWO cafes that are coffee and furniture-themed) and indie establishments, all.
Lemon Tree Cafe is located on a street that hosts not one, not two, not three, but four additional cafes surrounding it. So, how the hell could this place possibly hope to survive in such a bloody-red ocean?
Fortunately, it’s cute as hell. And, a good cup of Cappuccino helps.
On a warm summer day, even with the sun mostly hidden behind clouds, who wants to spend an hour inside (unless, they hate nature)? My friends and I chose Lemon Tree because of its cute and quirky presentation (much like the song that inspired the name). While there is inside seating available, the real star (at least at this time of year) is in the, dare I say, fool’s garden? I hate myself a little right now.
The drinks ordered, two Cappuccinos, a Latte and a pot of Rooibos tea, were all delightful. Prices were typical, if slightly on the higher side.
But, we were all more than happy with our purchases, and our experience. If all one wants is a good cup of coffee, it’s as easy as grinding your own beans at home (like I did about 30 minutes ago). But, just like the cafe street that’s way more than one street in Yulha (as well as the flower cafe I reviewed last week), Lemon Tree’s appeal (the cafe, not the song. It’s OK, but I still can’t understand the phenomenon) is in the experience.
Lemon Tree Cafe, 010-4109-9545, 055-325-3444; Owner: Ryu Se-Eun; 1110-3 Kwangdong-dong, Gimhae