Imagine this: you’re casually traipsing down one of the many streets of Garosugil, where new shops spring up one day and are gone the next. You turn into a small alleyway, passing a two-story coffee shop bedecked with silvery metal and shiny glass, and find yourself in a surprisingly quiet side street. Nestled in the corner of this nondescript neighborhood is a small cafe painted in a mottled yellow hue, not dissimilar to the color of a banana peel.
Markedly different from the generic coffee shop chains, Banana Tree embodies a time when bicycle bells rang in the spring breeze and cell phones were nonexistent.
Upon stepping into the little cafe, the first word that comes to mind is cozy. The whitewashed walls, painted with measured indifference, and the wooden furniture compliment each other to create an atmosphere that is so distinct from the loud, bubblegum pop craziness, full of plastic replicas and gleaming surfaces, so often offered by today’s modern culture. Here, old relics from childhood—nutcrackers, a Pinocchio puppet and even a working vintage phone—lend to the quaint ambiance. Seating a mere thirteen people, the cafe softly plays slow, mellow songs by artists like Jason Mraz in the background: the perfect place to read a book while sipping on a cup of hot Americano.
Banana Tree has been in business for a little more than three months, catering to the tastes of Koreans both young and old alike. Inspired by the banana pudding at the iconic New York sweet spot, Magnolia Bakery, the star of the menu is the flower pot pahp (팝), which is essentially pudding contained in—you guessed it—a flower pot. A generous dusting of crushed Oreo cookies resembling soil coats the pudding, which is mixed with chunks of fruit and cake crumbs. To complete the picture is a fabric flower, sprouting from the ‘soil’ in all its delicate beauty, while a silver shovel spoon stands by ready for use. The pudding comes in three different flavors, indulging an assorted mix of taste buds: The signature banana pahp is sweet without being sickly, perfect for all. The kids enjoy the sugary strawberry pahp, while the elderly favor the blueberry pahp for its health benefits. If pudding isn’t for you, the menu offers other interesting delectables, including mojitos, coffee and shaved ice (in a flower pot, of course).
If you order your pahp to go, be prepared to receive your order in a small clay flower pot, which is a nice touch the first time around. However, rather than causing a massive pile-up of unused clay pots in the corner of repeat customers’ kitchens (and with pudding this good, there are definitely repeat customers), perhaps an alternative like the columns of plastic cups stacked in the cafe’s cupboard would be a better replacement.
Markedly different from the generic coffee shop chains, Banana Tree embodies a time when bicycle bells rang in the spring breeze and cell phones were nonexistent. The friendly owner of the establishment remarked that she wanted to make everything about the shop memorable, and the character and nostalgia exuding from the place certainly accomplishes this. The cafe is a time capsule from the past, capturing a moment when things were simpler.