The coffee industry in Japan has never flourished as much as in the past few decades. A lot of that progress came from the local shops and roasteries that, along with the Specialty coffee wave, changed the landscape completely!
A great example of this is Manu Coffee, one of the very first stores to introduce espresso in the Prefecture of Fukuoka.
For those who may not be familiar, Fukuoka is one of the most influential places in the Coffee Culture of Japan, but more on that shortly.
In the following 1000 words we will dive together to Manu Coffee’s History and Fukuoka’s distinct coffee culture that birthed so many talents over the years.
So, ladies and Gentlemen, if you are ready, grab your mug because we are going to take a trip to Japan right about…now!
Fukuoka Coffee Culture
For those that may be unfamiliar with Fukuoka and it’s distinguished Coffee Culture, there are a ton of things I would love to tell you about it, but I will save that for a future article where we can take a much closer look to it!
Fukuoka’s coffee culture began in 2000 when Starbucks Japan landed in the city and started serving our beloved beverage. The city was already known for its delightful food and shopping districts, so it makes sense that high quality coffee could grow roots there!
All 3 of these industries (food, coffee, and shopping) have bloomed even further in the past 20 years, intertwined as they are to one another, so the entire prefecture makes for a great expedition!
For the coffee side at least, it is an absolute testament that many World Champions have emerged from Fukuoka’s coffee stores.
Hidenori Izaki who won the World Barista Championship in 2014 started there, at his father’s specialty coffee store, “Honey Coffee”.
Yoshikazu Iwase who was 2016’s runner up worldwide, started as an amateur Barista there 8 years before ascending to the highest ranks of the coffee world.
World Class roasters like Naoki Goto who won the Coffee Roasters World Championship of 2013 also emerged there. In Mr. Naoki Goto’s case, he opened Tokado coffee in 2008, after teaching himself how to roast and studying in “Bach Coffee” in Tokyo for 3 years.
If there is one thing you need to know about Fukuoka before reading further, it is that it has some of the most exquisite and unmatched experiences to offer to a coffee lover.
And here is where Manu coffee enters the stage!
Origins and History
In 2003 one of the very few coffee shops with an espresso machine opened in Fukuoka’s Haruyoshi district.
The man behind that was Mr. Sonobu Nishioka, who during his college years in the US had decided he wanted to make a very special coffee shop once he returned. And so he did!
What he was motivated to do essentially though, wasn’t just to make a cafeteria with good coffee. He aspired in a store that could put smiles on people’s faces and connect them through coffee.
To do that, not only did he look for the best beans available, but he customized the entire atmosphere of the store transforming it into an oasis, in a perpetually moving city.
He built the store’s character with street art and music, which was a pioneering move in 2003, and this calming effect was most obvious in 2005, when a major earthquake broke out in the area and many people took refuge in the small store encouraging one another amidst the panic.
A few years had passed, and with more and more locals trying their high quality espresso, Manu coffee soon became the face of Fukuoka’s good morning beverage.
Until 2011, Mr. Nishioka had opened 2 more stores, one of which, the one located in Daimyo, is still open.
This one store specifically has a wonderful story, as the staff and regular customers painted it themselves with a vibrant yellow color, planting orchid logs around!
Many local artists showcased their art there as well, and this exactly what Mr. Nishioka aspired to when he opened it. A place of liveliness and youth that puts a smile on your face!
A total of 5 Manu shops have opened until today, but mainly due to Covid, only 3 of them survived, the ones in Haruyoshi, Daimyo and Yakuin in Chuo-ku. The latter is called a whale shop and also serves as the roasting factory of the chain other than a cafeteria!
Last but not least, did you know Manu coffee has their own theme song? It was written and performed by a local musician named JUNN and it is called “A cup of Universe”. Just how many coffee chains do you know that have their own theme song?
Other activities Today
As we speak, Manu coffee is still operating in Fukuoka in its 3 stores, but it has added another couple of projects to its activities.
These activities have a different character, but both reflect Manu Coffee’s spirit, and they are called “The Manua Project” and “Artist in a coffee farm!”. I will start with the first!
The Manua Project
To put it briefly, “The Manua Project” is a sustainability program related to fertilizer.
As the waste of coffee grounds and chaffs (the skin of the bean that is peeled when roasting) has always been high, Manu cooperated with experts from the Kanazawa Bio Research Institute to create 100% organic, coffee-based fertilizer.
The prototype began in 2014 and officially entered the market in 2017. By October 2018, 6 tons had already been sold. Another batch of equal amount was manufactured in 2020 and one can still buy it at their online store if they wish!
Artist in a farm
The second project, which is called “Artist in a farm”, also has a social concern attribute, but this one is focused on art and artists.
Since 2018, Manu Coffee decided to collaborate with a variety of local artists, first of whom was NONCHELEE (Fukuoka-based Illustrator) and send them to the farm from which they procure the beans for a short amount of time.
In return, what the artist made during his stay, inspired by the place, would be bundled in a book and sold all over the world, while the original artwork is on display in Fukuoka!
The first stay was from March 10 to March 18, in Nicaragua, and if not for COVID we would have had more artwork to behold. That said, the project is still active, so we are looking forward to more wonderful illustrations in the future!
To summarize everything, I believe there is not much left to say about Manu Coffee or the essence coursing through their coffee and activity.
Fukuoka has given birth to so many coffee gems and Manu coffee proudly stands among them!
As one of the very pioneers of the city, and one of the first shops to orient towards putting smiles on their customers faces, I would say no coffee lover should miss a chance of visiting them, if they find themselves in Fukuoka.
Until next time, may your Barista put a smile on your face and may good coffee find its way to your cup everytime!