How Round K's Velvety Korean Egg Cappuccino Went Viral

Have you tried a cappuccino with a raw egg mixed in? If you don't live in New York, then probably not, but you've probably at least heard of Round K's popular concept online. The unique twist on coffee has been a viral hit for several years, thanks to a cup of joe unlike any other. 

Round K is a coffee shop chain in Manhattan's Lower East Side that combines Korean tradition with the coffee commuters expect. Its viral cappuccino features a shot of espresso, cream with cocoa powder, and a raw egg yolk dead in the center. It should be noted that the egg isn't entirely raw as the heat from the coffee (as well as its hot water bath) helps to partly cook the egg. 

The egg makes for a more complex and creamier version of a cappuccino than drinkers might be used to, but the gimmick is very much the raw yolk mixed into the drink. In interviews with Insider, some shoppers revealed their thoughts. One person said, "I think the cocoa powder, the foam, the egg, it all kinds of blends really well." Another person said, "You don't really taste the egg yolk, so it kind of tastes like a normal cappuccino."

A new take on a historical concept

While the egg cappuccino may seem like a viral concept, its roots date back to the 1960s and 1970s. The Korean coffee shop draws inspiration from its hottest drink in Korean history. During this period, Korean citizens would drink instant coffee mixed with an egg yolk. The drink was also combined with pine nuts and walnuts to form a more fulfilling cup of joe than standard instant coffee would have. One Korean cafe owner, Kim Chang-won, explained the drink's popularity to The Korean Herald, "This was a really popular drink in Korea decades ago. It was said that back in the day, reporters used to gather in the dabang [Korean coffee shop] and drink morning coffee before going to work."

Owner of Round K Ockhyeon Byeon explained how he developed the idea for the egg cappuccino. It relates to stories his father told him about Korea. Byeon explained in an interview, "He told me, Korea has had an egg cappuccino for a while." Byeon decided to take that idea and improve upon it. He became fascinated with what makes a really good cup of cappuccino and its cultural significance in Italy. 

The coffee shop owner realized that egg yolk would blend well with cappuccino. So, while the drink may have gone viral, it's built from a love of coffee.