이태원 (Itaewon) is a melting pot of cultural diversity, not just in regards to the people, but the restaurants and cafes as well. The streets are jam packed with a wide assortment of unique and delicious places to peak your tongue’s interest. I never had much of an excuse to linger around 이태원, but since my boyfriend started working in the area I find myself there at least once a week to have lunch with him. That being said, I also use this time as a chance to explore and search for interesting places. So it was by complete chance that I happened to come across a cafe called Banana Tree.
If I could sum up Banana Tree in one word, it would be 아기자기 (agijagi). This type of Korean slang refers to anything cutesy, girly or charming, which is everything this cafe is. The interior was all uniquely designed or created by owner 정유경, from the soft pastel blues and yellows splashed across the walls and the quaint green and teal painted wooden furniture to the various banana and monkey themed decor. It should come to no ones surprise that about 90% of their customers tend to female, while the other 10% are boyfriends. It’s a super cute place to hang out with your girl friends or a great place to take a date (for guys who want to score some brownie points).
As unique as the cafe itself, is their menu. While there are many things to choose from, their signature dessert the 화분팝 (Flower Paap), is an absolute must try. Inspired by the banana pudding at the famous Magnolia Bakery in New York, this reinvention is not only delicious, but absolutely adorable! The pudding is creamy and lightly sweetened with chunks of fresh fruit in the middle. It also has a bit of a bready texture to it, which is brought on by the heavy cream they use. The Flower Paap comes in four different flavors: banana, strawberry, blueberry and espresso. I would have to say that you can’t go wrong with the banana or espresso, since they are not too sweet or overpowering. Personally I like the strawberry flavor the most, but I have a bigger sweet tooth than most. Each order comes served in a flower pot topped with Oreo crumb dirt, candy-coated chocolate rocks and a small bouquet of silk flowers sprouting from the middle. As if that weren’t cute enough, you get to “dig-in” to your dessert with a shovel-shaped spoon.
Another great item on their menu is their seasonal 화분빙수 (Flower Bingsu). 빙수 (Bingsu), is a popular Korean dessert that you can find served in many places during the summer time. Banana Tree serves it in its most traditional form, and is by far one of the best ones I’ve ever had. The Flower Bingsu consists of a huge flower pot of soft shaved ice and condensed milk, topped with red bean soil and pieces of 떡 (rice cake). It’s garnished with a huge silk sunflower and comes with a gardening shovel to mix everything together. I particularly like the red beans they use because they are not mushy or over sweetened. If your looking for a cool treat this summer, you won’t be disappointed with this lovely dish for two.
As for drinks, you can’t go wrong with their signature 솜솜 라떼 (Cotton Candy Latte). This drink comes in four flavors: Banana, Milk Caramel, Green Tea and Ice Choco. Each drink is topped with a freshly made fluffy puff of cotton candy and a cute little marshmallow. Although I haven’t tried all of them yet, I like the milk caramel the most so far. It’s sweet, refreshing and looks really pretty when it’s served since the layers have not been mixed together. However, you will have to eat through the layers of cotton candy first or you may have a difficult time mixing your drink.
If lattes aren’t you thing, they have lots of other beverages to choose from. For the summer, I highly recommend their raspberry mojito. Although it does not contain any alcohol, it is still delightful sparking blend of fresh mint and raspberries. I often find myself drinking way too much coffee, so it’s nice to have a unique alternative that’s delicious, refreshing and looks pretty too.
Banana Tree is definitely one of the cutest cafes I’ve ever been to. One thing that I really like about this place is that you can order anything on their menu to go. During the holidays, they also make specially decorated 화분팝 (Flower Paap) in single gift boxes or gift boxes of four. I bought one for my friend’s birthday and she absolutely loved it! It is the perfect gift for any foodie. The prices for to-go Flower Paap are a little higher, at ₩24,000 for four or ₩6,300 for one, but only because you get to keep the pot, flowers and any other decorations.
Banana Tree in 이태원 (Itaewon) is their second location. The original is located in (Apgujeong), but it is much smaller and can only seat about 10 people. Additionally, a new location just opened up this year at the Lotte Department Store in 건대 . So no matter where you are, you will find it much easier to indulge yourself in a little Banana Tree. Happy Eating!