It’s a bright, beautiful morning in Fukuoka. Wanting to be energized and engaged for the day ahead, I meander over on my bike to REC Coffee for a latte. Located just a few minutes walk from Nishitestu Yakuin train station on Jonan-sen, REC coffee is easy to get to. The atmosphere is casual and pleasant, and the smell of freshly baked delicacies, very tempting. But it’s the coffee that I’m going for and it doesn’t disappoint.
I order my café latte from the friendly and informative barista, who asks me if I’d like that day’s special blend for an extra 100￥. Because I dislike spending more than 500￥ on a coffee, I politely decline the more expensive blend. The total for my café latte, attractively presented in a black mug and saucer, is 430￥.
I plant myself at the end of a long table, directly across from the bar where the coffee is prepared. The metallic silver finish on the hand built Synesso espresso machine from Seattle contrasts the dark wood panel finish of the counter in front of it.
Looking around, the café is still quiet; a group of three ladies engrossed in a discussion, while a couple of smartly dressed men appear engaged in a meeting. There is seating for approximately 30-40 people. On a weekend morning before noon it is still easy to procure a cosy seat. But if you arrive in the early afternoon, it might be more difficult to find a place to sit, but you can always take your drinks and snacks with you.
The furniture at REC is mostly retro and rather eclectic, and even a little industrial.
Plants of various sizes add hints of green.
A magazine rack offers local free papers alongside café and coffee related periodicals to peruse while you sip. Whether you want to relax and chat, or get some serious blogging or writing in, there are places for both.
There are hard wood and metal chairs to pull up and sit at knee-level tables. You can also sit in low, soft chairs that look like they might be part of a sectional couch. If you prefer a more ordinary waist-height table, then there are a handful of those as well. Or there are stools to sit at numerous elbow-height narrow bars while you wait for the barista to deliver your coffee of choice.
Speaking of choices, there are plenty.
Common selections that are available; french press coffee (410￥), espresso (300￥), café latte (430￥), cappuccino (420￥), americano (360￥), and so forth. Iced or hot options are available. Smoothies and flavored lattes are on the menu as well. Feeling hungry? Perhaps you would enjoy a shrimp and avocado sandwich (450￥) or the clam chowder (510￥) served in a bread bowl. The aromatic wafts coming from the kitchen at the back will leave your mouth watering. It’s always difficult to restrain myself from ordering something to eat when I go there.
The most popular food item, a caramel scone (260￥), makes a nice accompanying snack for a coffee. If you feel like ratcheting up the party dial, you could order a craft beer (750￥) in a bottle. Maybe even an Irish coffee (750￥). According to the manager, the Irish coffee is a big seller on Friday and Saturday nights when REC is most busy.
Perhaps you want to pick up your own roasted coffee beans from Ethiopa (250 grams, 1600￥) or Brazil (250 grams, 2000￥).
You could make your own french press coffee in your hotel room with a french press purchased from REC. Those and other coffee-related goods like travel mugs or coffee bean grinders are for sale as well.
I always feel like the coffee at REC is exceptionally tasty, and that’s probably because the beans are provided and roasted by a specialty coffee store called Honey Coffee in Fukuoka. An import, roasting and distribution store, Honey Coffee is well known in Fukuoka. Moreover, REC Coffee’s co-founder, Iwase Yoshikazu, is well-versed in bean selection and specialty drink preparation. He is also the 2014 Japan Barista Champion.
While savoring my latte, I sit down with the manger at REC Coffee to talk about the appeal of REC Coffee and what Fukuoka has to offer tourists.
Kotaro Kubo, 29 and a native of Fukuoka, has been working at REC Coffee for the past 2.5 years.
He oversees a staff of 9 full-time, and 3 part-time employees. His position is relatively stress-free: the condition of the coffee beans is his biggest concern. There are times when it rains, or is really humid, and the moisture levels in the beans will change and subtly affect the taste of the coffee. He tells me that cappuccinos and americanos, along with café lattes are the most popular coffee drinks at REC. The aforementioned caramel scone garners the most attention in the food category.
I’ve been coming to REC for a few years, and it always seems to be busy, so I ask Kubo how REC became so popular. His answer; “The co-owners have both won awards (at the Japan Barista Championship), customer service is great, we serve terrific coffee, and word of mouth has spread from people who like good coffee”.
Part of the appeal of REC is its casual style. Kubo explains: “People can feel comfortable walking-in off the street and ordering a coffee. The furniture isn’t too fashionable or stylish”, he says with a laugh. REC doesn’t feel ostentatious or pretentious like some cafes I have been to. The staff is super-friendly and always willing to strike up a conversation with customers.
I question Kubo about his favourite things to-do in Fukuoka. Being from the area, I figured that he has some insight into what is good. He tells me that he and his friends often visit Itoshima, where numerous cafes and restaurants line the beach. It is a popular spot because of its sandy beaches, gentle waves, its laid-back style, and the proximity from the city. I question him further, asking what he would recommend for a tourist who wants to take away a coffee in order to sip and see the sights. He suggests hopping on the train at nearby Yakuin station, and heading directly to Dazaifu. Or perhaps a little window shopping in some small goods stores or clothing stores, of which there are both aplenty in Fukuoka.
If you want great coffee, and a chilled-out atmosphere while you take a break from your sightseeing, REC Coffee provides exactly that. If you happen to be in another part of town, you might just find another REC Coffee location. There are a total of 3 shops and one mobile coffee truck. Drop in at REC and you wont be disappointed.
Official website : http://www.rec-coffee.com/