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Check out the newest coffee concept in Columbus, where all of the drinks are free

Check out the newest coffee concept in Columbus, where all of the drinks are free

Sav McKee

“This started as a passion project, and it’s been a shock to us how popular it’s getting,” said David Kim, co-owner of a new Asian-inspired coffee shop that’s making waves throughout the city for their untraditional coffee offerings and unconventional location(s).

David and his pals (and co-owners) Sean Dupiano, Kiujoy Kokko, and Casey Kim have all been friends for a while, and they all share a passion for coffee. When drafting ideas of coffee shop concepts, the one commonality they all shared was that “cafe” is pronounced the exact same way in all of their cultures. In Korean, Filipino, and Chinese, “cafe” is “kape” (kah-pey). 

And that’s how Kape Coffee was born.

The Kape Coffee team, via Instagram

You won’t find Kape Coffee at a permanent storefront, just yet. “We’re new, and we don’t have the luxury of having a typical retail spot,” explained David. Instead, they’re collaborating with other small businesses in Columbus. For example, they’ve been bouncing around at The Leisure Club once or twice a week, which looks like a spot you’d only find in the most hipster part of Brooklyn. You can sometimes catch them in the co-working space, The Branch, at East Market, too. They’re taking pop-up opportunities as they come, keeping it fluid and fun.

Kape’s pop-up at The Leisure Club, via @ColumbusCoffeeShops on Instagram

At their most recent collaboration inside of the beloved restaurant Bonifacio, they featured an Ube latte, which is a Filipino delicacy made with purple yam. They try to source all of their ingredients from their homeland, expressing tasting notes that remind them of their childhood experiences. They leave us with thoughtful drinks like their Yuja Tonic made from a Korean marmalade, the Sesame Latte (their most popular) with roasted black sesame pureed and infused into a latte, and a Maesil Plum Ade, which is a Korean apricot refresher infused with rosemary. You can also order more traditional drinks, like pour overs, plus mochas and cappuccinos made with Espresso Air, a local roaster they’ve been utilizing as their micro-roastery.

Black Sesame Latte via Kapes Instagram

Oh, wait, did I mention that you can get all of these for free? “There’s a virtual tip jar though,” said David. “It was a risk that we took, and it’s been paying off.”

David explained that they’re still in their growth stage, carefully looking for the perfect spot to open a shop of their own. They wanted to test their market first, see what works, and what doesn’t. 

Since the Kape Coffee team all have day jobs (David also owns 25 Dials, a vintage watch business in The Short North), they’re not in a big rush to open a brick and mortar of their own, but I think the rest of Columbus would disagree that they should take their time – everywhere you look on Instagram, someone’s posting that they tried the best latte they’ve ever had at this “hidden coffee shop.”

When I told David that, he laughed and said, “Yeah, we’ll have to expand our hours in Leisure Club.”

Kape Coffee’s pop-ups have almost become this elusive, underground coffee club. But the best part is that everyone is invited – there’s no membership fee to visit them at any of these spots – and everyone pays the same price – $0.

Check out their Instagram, where their next location is always announced. This week, you can catch them at Leisure Club at 1610 Oak St. today until 3pm, and this Saturday, 9am-3pm.

Want to read more? Check out our print publications, (614) Magazine and Stock & Barrel. Learn where you can find free copies of our newest issues here!


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