Founded by Kenny Hong Kyoung-soo in late 2019, Café Cha has somehow managed to grow to 6 stores already. Its level of success cannot be understated; however, it is quite easy to see why the new, Instagram-friendly business has been doing so well recently. It all comes down to dalgona, which is a traditional, delicious confectionary treat that is deeply embedded in Korea’s history. Dating back to the 1950s, dalgona surged onto the street food scene as a popular, honeycomb toffee-like candy that kids loved and adored. These days, there may be fewer dalgona stalls on the streets, but Cafe Cha is bringing it back in a big way with its Dalgona-focused concept.
So, what is real dalgona?
If you were to hop online and search “dalgona”, you’ll see a lot of misleading pictures about drinks and other random beverages. However, real dalgona is a candy treat that possesses a combination of sweetness, underpinned by a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Why has it become so popular recently?
There are many reasons why dalgona has become incredibly popular over the last few months. In fact, in early March 2020, the #dalgonacoffeechallenge started trending on social media, which can probably be attributed to the recent lockdown measures implemented globally to combat the coronavirus. With millions of people confined to their homes, home cooking has become even more important.
Thankfully, dalgona consists of only two core ingredients, meaning it won’t place too much of a strain on your pantry. If you try to make it at home, Hong, the founder of Café Cha, recommends that you keep a close eye on their dalgona and to not let the sugar in the pan burn too quickly!
So, why has Café Cha decided to focus on dalgona as a way of differentiating their products? Well, according to Hong, dalgona has a special place in the hearts of many Koreans, especially those who grew up loving the dessert. Each bite is a return to their childhood, bringing back memories of street stalls, long queues and dalgona sticks.
The chain has expanded to 5 more locations after originating in Seongsu-dong, a hip neighbourhood in Korea. It has currently 7 locations (6 in Seoul, 1 in Tokyo). Indeed, Café Cha even has a store in the upscale part of Tokyo’s Aoyama, and plans to continue rolling out more across the region this year. Some of Café Cha’s most popular items include their signature dalgona milk tea, dalgona latte and their adored in-house scones, which are topped with a thick, crunchy dalgona layer.
With the new global interest in dalgona, Hong hopes that Café Cha can cultivate a strong international audience, enabling this beloved national dessert to be enjoyed bv the world.