The concept of availing a side-serving of creature comfort with your cappuccino is nothing new – it began with the world’s supposed first animal café, Cat Flower Garden, which opened in Taipei back in 1998. These days, across the East China Sea, animal cafés are seemingly popping up on every corner of Seoul’s bustling city center the past few years. Is the South Korean capital now giving Taipei a run for its money?
Blind Alley: Three raccoons and a Corgi
At Blind Alley, a café in Seoul’s Cheongpa-dong neighborhood a white raccoon and a Welsh corgi tumble between table legs, blending into an unruly ball of fur and stunted limbs as they wrestle with each other.
All around, well-dressed patrons sip coffee and shoot the breeze, one eye trained on the next adorable skit to unfold at their feet.
Han Songhui, the CEO of Blind Alley, says that she brought her raccoons, Creamer, Bean and Shot – whose names are indeed coffee-themed – to the café for their own good.
Having rescued the trio from the fur trade as babies, Han started taking them to work with her in order to give them the constant care they needed as pups.
The raccoons are also right at home with their Corgi brother, Cookie, as they clamber down from their lofty perches to groom him and play with him whenever he waddles through.
“I got Cookie after the raccoons, so as soon as he met them I think he decided he was a raccoon, too,” giggles Han, as she stains Cookie’s white, fluffy cheek with a perfect kiss mark.
Now fully grown, Creamer, Bean and Shot live in a spacious glass-fronted enclosure at the back of the café.
Blind Alley opens its doors from 9.30am to 10pm each day.
The accommodating mammals might receive up to 100 guests – mostly students from nearby Sookmyung Women’s University flooding in for a double hit of caffeine and cuteness between classes – who are all eager to interact with them.
Any effects of sleep deprivation on the part of the raccoons are hard to spot, though, as they use their highly dexterous paws to climb the wood-planked walls, swing on ropes and snatch treats from those clamoring to win their affection.
“They usually have around 16 hours of sleep, but when customers come they tend to wake up,” says 55-year-old Han, a vision of new Korean glamour with her Champagne blonde bob, mirrored sunglasses and flamingo-pink lipstick. “They are just tired and a bit boring. When the customers leave then they fall asleep again.”
Thanks Nature: Merino sheep with a summer break
Meanwhile, in Seoul’s Mapo-gu district, Thanks Nature opened its doors in the year of the sheep (2015).