As of now, a lot of our articles have focused on stores or individuals located (or originating) from the Fukuoka prefecture.
We have talked about champions, like Hidenori Izaki who won the World Barista Championship in 2015 and were born and raised there.
We have spoken of Manu Coffee, who raised awareness and offered specialty espresso since the early 2000’s, alongside Honey coffee, before that was even a thing.
Today we are going to talk about Rec Coffee, a similar cafe, that like Manu Coffee, blossomed in Fukuoka and today is an international chain of 10 stores.
Before that, however, let’s take a very quick look on the person behind REC Coffee. And his name is…
For those who have been in the industry for some time, this is a name you most likely have encountered at least once in the past. We have also written a short article about the individual which I will link right here for anyone who may be interested.
For those that would like a shorter version, Yoshikazu Iwase is a 2 times winner of the Japan Barista Championship and a runner up in the World Barista Championship of 2016.
He started his career as a Barista in Manu Coffee in his early twenties and by 2008, alongside Osamu Kitazoe, a friend passionate about coffee, they opened the first mobile sales store in Fukuoka, called REC Coffee!
We go in much more detail in his article, but this will suffice for this one. So, without further ado, let’s look directly at REC Coffee now!
Early years of REC Coffee
In 2008, after a few years of training as a Barista and getting more and more familiar with specialty coffee and its unique traits, Yoshikazu alongside Osamu, had decided to save up some funds to open their own store.
And the child of that decision, was no other than REC Coffee, born in Fukuoka in 2008!
As mentioned above, it started as a mobile sales store, which is basically a van with an espresso machine, however, this was a very good decision for several reasons.
For those who may be unfamiliar, Fukuoka is renowned for its commercial streets and delicious, yet affordable, food. With this in mind, REC coffee had a great opportunity to make itself known to as many people as possible, taking advantage of the city’s character.
By opening a mobile sales store, of course the initial expense is lower, which allows for further investment in the quality of the coffee, but there are more merits to be harvested.
For instance, you can actually move the entire place around, depending on where the traffic of people is, and you can target far more groups of people depending on the timeframe.
Fukuoka is a vibrant place full of young people and modern culture influences and combined with the trained-for-excellence tongues of the locals, specialty coffee could definitely have an impact there.
Not too long after the first store’s success and the brand’s establishment as high-quality specialty coffee, 2 more stores opened in Fukuoka, this time without wheels.
The first one was the Yakuin Ekimae store and the second was the “Rec Coffee Faam Café” in the Asian Art Museum.
And this is the number of stores that were around for several years until 2016 when the real road upwards began.
Yoshikazu’s Pursuit of excellence
After the first few years of walloping success of REC Coffee, its founders knew that there was more to offer and wanted the best for their customers in the long-term.
In that pursuit, Yoshikazu decided to take part in 2011’s national Barista competition, as a way to learn more and bring it back to the company. Astonishingly, he got the bronze medal on his first try!
It is paramount to note at this point, that training for such a competition is exceptionally time-consuming, so the fact that there were two people leading the company instead of one, may have made all the difference.
After a few years of deepening their knowledge on specialty coffee, and again on the same pursuit of excellence, Yoshikazu took part in JBC in 2014, and 2015, both of which he won.
In 2016 he was a runner up for the World Championship and with that step taken, a new page dawned for REC Coffee!
After 2016, when Yoshikazu’s experience and skill was awarded on the world stage, more eyes were drawn to REC Coffee. Not having been abandoned, due to one of its founders being away, the company was now mature enough in the eyes of people to expand further not only in Fukuoka but other places too.
As of now, the company numbers a total of 10 stores. 6 of them are in the motherland of the company, the Fukuoka prefecture and most of them hold a similar style, always fitting the store’s needs depending on their audience.
Two of them are to be found in Tokyo, one in Shibuya and one is Chiyoda and the two last have opened in Thailand, hence the international element of the company.
Its still early to say, but we can expect several things from REC Coffee in the future and honestly, I can’t wait to see what these are!
A few words of the founders
As the two have said in previous interviews, the very roots of REC coffee, stand in a combination of the Japanese kissaten culture, and a common passion for coffee.
Kissaten is a coffee culture that stood for “an enjoyable and relaxing time of one enjoying his food and/or beverage”.
That of course would experience a crisis due to the rush of the times, but when properly aligned with a modern trend, like specialty espresso, its very essence was bound to reemerge.
Osamu was working in a restaurant before REC, but after being talked into the coffee industry, he almost immediately quit and entered the business.
As the two said, they would roast coffee beans with a frying pan and have friends try them and that was the very start of their now-more-than-a-decade journey.
Isn’t it fascinating what a passion for something can do to one’s life?
Summarizing everything, I strongly believe that almost everyone who read this far, loves coffee.
So next time you drink a cup, any cup of any coffee you enjoy, I want you to take a single moment to enjoy the taste on your tongue.
We tend to forget to savor this incredible beverage, that has changed so many people’s lives, especially if its more than just a habit!
REC Coffee is a great example of the passion imbuing the drink and if you ever get the chance to visit them, I highly recommend you do!
Once again, may great coffee find its way to you and may you always have something that inspires you in your life!