If you have been reading my blog, there is a very good chance that you know Japan has a history regarding high-quality coffee.
Today we will examine one of these places in Japan, that has made such a name for its coffee culture, and where people from all over the world come to try some one-of-a-kind coffee!
This place is of course no other than Fukuoka city（福岡）, a subject we will delve more into in the following paragraphs.
Before that, however, one should know Fukuoka isn’t known only for its contribution to the global coffee industry.
People are drawn to Fukuoka for many different reasons, which we will examine shortly, and this is one of the main factors that allowed the coffee industry to blossom there.
So, without further ado, let us travel to the Japanese city of coffee and… more!
Geographically speaking, Fukuoka is the largest city in the western region of Kyushu, located in the Fukuoka prefecture.
It was built in the 7th century as a place of contact with other nations, and from the 11th century forward, it has been a “merchant’s haven” for Korean and Chinese traders.
It’s a very short distance from China and Korea, and its continual contact with the two cultures has influenced quite a few elements of the city over time. The one most intriguing in our case would be the cuisine influences, which have led to some of the most astonishing combinations of the three, only found in Fukuoka.
Other than its extremely competent chefs, Fukuoka boasts a rich and long history, and its monuments attract thousands of visitors every year.
Although it’s an industrial city, it’s also known as an entertainment district, with dozens of shopping streets and attractions.
Should you combine the diverse culture present with the diverse cuisine and the city’s orientation to entertainment, one can understand why coffee found a natural habitat latent there.
Favored by the already mature kissaten culture and with most of the people coming to taste the existing recipes and socialize, high-quality coffee lovers have definitely found a dream destination!
Coffee in Japan – An extremely short story
Coffee has had a long history since it arrived in Japan, and its spurs of popularity with the natives definitely had an impact on Fukuoka’s later growth.
As this is not an article about the history of coffee in Japan, however, I will direct anyone who may be interested here.
All one needs to know to move forward though, is that at the turn of the 21st century, another burst in coffee consumption took place all over Japan, impacting all types of consumers.
One can attribute this at first, to chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s, opening stores around the country, attracting more people to enjoy the beverage, and at the naturally increasing demand for coffee as a “boost”, since the Internet had quite the impact at the speed of affairs and even more work could be put by an individual in a shorter timeframe.
Now, one of the reasons Fukuoka was a place where mastery of all-things coffee could be achieved, has to do a lot with COF-FUK which was formed around 2007.
At the time, the industry there was still in its baby shoes, and knowledge around the subject was scarce and hard to source.
COF-FUK was a… study group, let’s say, where extremely passionate individuals would gather and share their knowledge and new experiences regarding coffee.
This was built around the common goal of elevating the entire industry of specialty coffee, and it proved one of the most important factors that made it happen.
COF-FUK was formed mainly by owners of coffee stores and aspiring professionals, some of whom were Mr. Nishioka of Manu Coffee, Yoshikazu Iwase of Rec coffee, and Noriko Sunaga of Manly coffee.
There are several more members of COF-FUK, many of whom grew to reach national and or global scale acknowledgment of their skill. Yoshikazu Iwase for example, after winning the Japan Barista Championship for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015, won 2nd place in the World Barista Championship o 2016.
These individuals grouping and expanding their understanding and knowledge around their most beloved beverage would later result in the extreme increase of specialty coffee available in Fukuoka where each had its store.
It should also be noted that Hidenori Izaki’s victory in 2014’s World Barista Championship and Naoki Goto’s victory in the World Roasting Championship one year before that, were bound to draw more attention from coffee lovers around the world.
Japan, and Fukuoka more specifically, have produced some world-class professionals and this has been evident in the coffee industry of the past decade.
The stores that made it happen
To understand what COF-FUK really did, we can always look at some of the stores and individuals who took part in it when it happened.
First, we will travel back to 2003, when Sonobu Nishioka opened Manu coffee. At the time there were only a handful of stores with an espresso machine to say nothing of stores offering specialty coffee.
What Mr. Nishioka desired was to put a smile on people’s faces who drank his coffee. To do that, not only did he invest in the best beans he could find but he set up the aura of the store to be a soothing haven in a fast-paced city.
A few years down the road, Manu was the face of Fukuoka’s coffee, and it would be considered a pioneer and an inspiration to the other stores.
REC coffee was the first store after Manu, that displayed such an outstanding passion for its art. And it started only one year after COF-FUK’s unofficial foundation, in 2008.
It was founded by Osamu Kitazoe and Yoshikazu Iwase and it started as a mobile store. With wheels, it could go where the people were and it could serve more and more people in a day.
After just a couple of years, it would open several stores both in Japan and internationally, and one of its founders would become a world-class barista, bringing more and more attention to the city.
Last but not least is Tokado coffee, which is not a café but a roastery. Its owner and founder, Naoki Goto won the World roasting Championship in 2013 and has been expanding his work since.
At the moment he is still in front of the oven, experimenting with more and more coffee profiles despite being one of the world’s best because for a roaster there is no ceiling. Hundreds of coffee lovers visit his store when they pass by Fukuoka, and you will know why if you try his products.
There are many more stores and individuals I am forgetting, that has elevated the level of the coffee industry of Japan, but these are the main three I can think of.
To summarize it all, I believe Fukuoka is a definite destination if one desires a rich expedition, full of good food, entertainment, and of course… top-notch coffee.
It may have taken years to build and dozens of passionate people to put their souls to it, but as a result, Fukuoka is considered a city of coffee, just like Copenhagen.
Should you visit, don’t forget to pass by some of the stores we explored above, and as always, stay healthy and drink coffee!!