There’s nothing mad at all about Mad Bingsu, a cute and cozy café hidden away in the Micronesia Mall, located on the first floor in the same corridor as Gap and Vitamin World.
In fact, the “Mad” in Mad Bingsu doesn’t mean what you think, as it actually stands for “my amazing delight,” according to co-owner Chongyup Lee. It’s an apt description for a café serving up high-quality coffee and Korean dessert delicacies like han gwa and, of course, bingsu.
If you haven’t tried bingsu, or don’t know what it is, stop reading and just go get a bowl, because you are definitely missing out. But if you need some convincing, by all means, read on.
A popular Korean dessert, modern-day bingsu is a frozen concoction that’s not quite shaved ice, not quite ice cream, and loaded with delicious toppings like mochi or mango or coconut shavings (or all three).
While more traditional bingsu is made without cream, making for an icier treat, Mad Bingsu decided to go with the more popular cream-based bingsu, developing their own house recipe which they make fresh and with all natural ingredients, served up in several delicious and surprising flavors like mango and cream cheese, matcha, dark chocolate and pat (Korean red bean paste).
“The new trend in Korea is they use a milk base,” Lee said. “So we catch that one and then we try from A to Z, we try this and that, and we found our own recipe, Mad Bingsu recipe.”
Mad Bingsu, which Lee runs alongside his wife, Bonnie Lee, has attracted their fair share of tourists hailing from Korea, and so far the Lees say their bingsu has been a hit with them.
“They’re first of all like bingsu? Is it bingsu bingsu?” Chongyup Lee said. “We’re like yes, yes we’re that bingsu. They’re surprised, for sure. When they taste it they say ... they like it ... they are appreciative to have bingsu in Guam.”
But while bingsu is certainly the star of the show at the Lees’ café, coffee was what gave them the idea in the first place.
“I wanted to do just a café, just coffee,” Bonnie Lee said. Growing up in Australia, Bonnie Lee is a self-described coffee lover. “Every single corner you have a little, tiny, cozy café,” she said of Sydney.
But when the Lees’ hospitality background brought them to Guam, Bonnie Lee thought she could offer something new to the café scene here.
It was Chongyup Lee who thought to add bingsu to the café concept, and Bonnie Lee figured, why not?
On Guam, “it’s a four seasons ... item,” she said. “Why can’t we have both?”
Bonnie Lee, who spent months studying the art of latte-making on YouTube, may be a self-taught barista, but her attention to detail means every cup is made well and consistently.
She spent three months learning the ins and outs of making a quality cup of coffee, though her husband is quick to point out that within 10 days she had already advanced to latte art.
“Quality is the most important to us to provide to customers,” Chongyup Lee said. “And it’s a good value for money. ... You don’t have to spend $10 or $11 for one cup of coffee, if you stick to the basics, make it right, good price, then customer will like it.”
“And then consistency,” Bonnie Lee added. “Whoever’s making it has to be same.”
The Lees achieved that consistency the hard way: by doing lots and lots of “homework,” as Chongyup Lee described it. Once the café was nearly ready to open and staff was hired on, the homework continued, as staff went through a full month of training.
“I’m a coffee lover, always drink coffee,” Bonnie Lee said, explaining her attention to detail. “(I’m) very fussy because I don’t drink any alcohol so I need to have a great coffee in the morning so I can have a good day,” she added with a laugh.
“I think that personally I’m like a kind of picky person. Especially if I pay to buy something, it has to be great,” she said.
While the menu is relatively simple, offering espresso classics like lattes and cappuccinos, you can also find a few drinks from around the world that you can’t find elsewhere on island, including the Einspänner, a German drink made with cold espresso topped with a thick, ever-so-slightly sweet cream and cocoa powder. Chongyup Lee described it as “drinkable tiramisu.”
Like the Einspanner, the Lees take their shop seriously but aren’t afraid to add a touch of whimsy, and the result is an endearing, unique space. Dimly lit and cozy, it’s a spot for long conversations over cappuccinos; or a casual meetup with friends, while the kids entertain themselves with the gigantic blackboard wall, already covered in inscriptions and elaborate chalk art.
Mad Bingsu invites you to pause and find a little bit of sweetness in the middle of your day, whether that’s with a rich cup of freshly brewed espresso or a sweet, creamy bowl of bingsu.