Consistently ranked one of the worst cities for air pollution, Seoul is an unlikely location for urban beekeeping and bee-awareness. However, Ape – a honey café and lifestyle store opened this past March – is looking to change the capital’s image to a bee-friendly one.
Ape comes from the Italian word for bee and the café’s aim is to “celebrate the coexistence of bees and humans.” Founded as a labor of love by Park Jin and Michael Jaehun Lee, all of the people involved in the café have a passion for bees and are beekeepers themselves. Owner of the café, Park, also runs Urban Bees Seoul – a beekeeper’s cooperative and social venture that raises approximately four million bees throughout the city. Michael Jaehun Lee, manager at Ape, is a trained barista and beekeeper that can explain the origins of every single type of honey Ape has in stock.
In addition to fresh coffee, cold brews and lattes, the menu includes a variety of signature drinks and desserts. For first-timers, Lee recommends the Seoul Honey Caffe Latte made with locally sourced honey and topped with a generous helping of almond slices. Next to the counter, there’s a honeycomb that drips out the sugary secretion to sample with crackers and the space is adorned with olive trees and other plants that foster a healthy environment for bees. There are also a variety of reasonably-priced jars of honey, soap and candles to purchase.
Although there are no bees at the actual café, Lee has plans to raise bees at a community center right across the street and the café holds honey-related classes. Ape can also put you in touch with Urban Bees Seoul, which holds classes twenty times a year.