trio of bags on stripes

Ray: Okay. I’m Ray.

Kandace: I’m Kandace.

Ray: Welcome to Unpacking Coffee. This week …

Kandace: Recreational Coffee of Long Beach, California. Recreational is the lovechild of Bobby and Correne Hernandez.

Ray: They have two actual kids, right?

Kandace: They have actual kids.

Early Years

Bobby: What were the first few years like? They were hard. Very, very hard. We started out doing well and we still are doing well. It’s really good. It’s steady income. But the first year was just hard, just learning the ropes of a small business and understanding all the fun taxes that California has. Right?

Correne: Yeah, it was hard.

Bobby: Yeah.

Correne: It’s like any business starting. It’s a new baby.

Bobby: Yeah.

Correne: And you have to nurture it and make it grow.

coffee shop front

Image via Recreational Coffee website

Bobby: Totally. My name is Bobby Hernandez. I’m one of the owners of Recreational Coffee here in Long Beach, California.

Correne: And I’m Correne Hernandez. I’m the other owner of Recreational Coffee.

Bobby: So we’re husband and wife. We’re married. We’re doing this thing. We do a lot of the in-shop management, making sure the shop’s flowing and working well. I also roast. I’m the head roaster. I have an assistant roaster. One of our managers, she roasts with us as well.

Correne: I do everything that you don’t see at the shop. I take care of payroll and accounting and bill paying. and that’s about it.

Bobby: Designing.

Correne: Designing.

Bobby: Yeah.

Correne: Some designing.

From Hobby to Shop

Koke on drum

Kandace: Recreational Coffee started out as a side project. And, as side projects will do, sort of took over their lives…became super popular.

Bobby: I was a therapist for a few years, for about four and a half years or so. I was just a hobbyist. I really enjoyed specialty coffee. I started brewing coffee at home and got really into the science of it and the nerdiness of it. Started brewing it for family and friends and they were really into it too. I took it to farmer’s markets and did that whole thing like that. People were into it and it just kind of grew and snowballed. Did a bunch of popups all over LA and quit my job and got into the shop. Opened up in Long Beach.

Bobby: Did I miss anything?

Correne: No.

Bobby: Okay.

Correne: I just went along for the ride.

Bobby: Pretty much. pretty much, supporting me the entire time with having a new kid. And then we had our second kid right when we opened the shop. So that was a foolish decision. No, it was good.

Correne: Very tiring.

Bobby: Very tiring.

Recreational What?

No, Recreational Coffee does not have weed in it. The name references Bobby Hernandez’s past life as a recreational therapist, as well as the fact that the seeds for the business stem back to a passion for great coffee at home. (No, not those seeds and stems; just the regular, metaphorical kind.) – Nick Brown, Daily Coffee News

Kandace: The name came from Bobby’s past in recreational therapy.

coffee and vinyl

Bobby: Our name is Recreational Coffee. And it came from this idea that, well one, I used to be a recreation therapist before. And so it was that kind of part of it. It was also that it was a hobby of mine, it was a recreational activity that I did on my free time.

Kandace: And another definition of recreational is a socially acceptable drug, which is coffee.

Ray: Right.

Kandace: It’s coffee, people. Coffee.

Ray: Well …

Kandace: In this case it’s coffee.

Ray: It says drug though.

Bobby: … and really had to tell everyone that, “No, we don’t put weed in your coffee.” Because it seems like everyone when we first started, that was the thing, they’re like, “Oh dude, do you have weed in there?” I’m like, “No, we don’t. That’s not what it’s about. That’s not what we’re talking about.”

Kandace: It should be legal though, definitely.

Ray: Coffee?

Kandace: Yes.

Ray: Should be legal.

two coffee bags atop a skateboard

Get Loud

example of the recreational logo on mug

Bobby: So our branding is big and loud. It’s up in your face. Yeah, so branding-wise, as far as our logo design, a friend of ours over in Orange County, Sarah Armstrong, she did our logo design. And then Correne has done everything else in between that. So as far as our bags go and our labels go, and stuff like that, Correne has been the one designing that stuff.

Ray: She did the packaging? I love this. I like the fact that they’re using Futura, a favorite. They’ve got fun little things on the side and back, little hidden message in the bottom. I guess it’s not very hidden.

From Multi-Roaster to Roaster

Kandace: It’s interesting. They started out as a multi-roaster.

Ray: Can you talk about the transition?

Bobby: Yes, I can talk about the transition. Yeah, we were serving quite a few different roasters. We have neighbors here that are a brewery and they are competing all the time and putting their beers out there. And that was their thing and I wanted our thing. I wanted something that we could be proud of and something that we can ship out or send out to people and they can try our coffee.

We’ve been doing that. We’ve been really doing it for the past two years now, roasting coffee. And it’s been great. People have been really positive in their response to it. And I feel like we’re just getting better and better. I transitioned by just doing our espresso first and then still having other roasters on our lineup.

Bobby: Honestly, truthfully because I just didn’t feel content. Quality at such a high standard and high benchmark for our shop, that was what we were going for. We were TDSing (Total Dissolved Solids) our coffees and making sure that everything was very consistent. And that was what our shop was built on, quality. One by one, before we knew it, we had freaking just overhauled the entire menu.

Cold Brew…Not

Ray: Since it’s right by the beach, they also make a cold brew.

Kandace: Not.

Bobby: It’s iced coffee. We choose not to do cold brew at the shop just because I personally am not a big fan of it. It’s nothing against people who are into it. It’s totally cool. It’s just coffee. I like the Japanese ice pour-over method and the flash chill method if you want to call it that. To me, when I think of coffee and ice, I imagine drinking it on a really hot day. I just want to down it. You want it to be refreshing, a little more sweeter and vibrant.

Correne: My answer to that question would’ve been it’s iced coffee. Next question.

trio of bags

About that Coffee

Kandace: So this was an example of a roaster that we had not heard of that sent us their coffee and we tried it. And it’s phenomenal. We’re really excited.

Bobby: What are you looking for in coffee? So the sweet, complex, balanced. And those are the three things that we look for all the time with our coffees. And we just want stuff that’s sweet, complex, and balanced. And that’s kind of like our true north, so to speak, of all of our coffees. And if they’re not those three things, then we don’t typically serve them.

Mug with Long Beach CA on it

Correne: Well, good coffee comes from Long Beach. Right?

Bobby: That’s what they say.

Bobby: Long Beach coffee culture is sick. It is pretty cool. There is a lot of good coffee, even before we were here man.

Bobby: Another diverse shop, man. And we do our thing. Our shop is different than a lot of other shops. Our music is louder at our shop and it’s more … Because I like loud music and I grew up with punk rock and hiphop. I’m always going to ask if she agrees. Do you agree with it? Am I making this up?

Correne: No, I think it’s true.

Bobby: Yeah.

Correne: I think it’s a really lively shop. I’m proud of it.

Bobby: Me too. Very proud of it.

Correne: Yeah.

Bobby: That’s all the questions. You got all the answers.

Ray: Yeah.

Bobby: Okay. Come to Long Beach.

Correne: Yeah.

Bobby: Bye.

Correne: Bye.

Ray: Recreational Coffee of Long Beach, California.

this coffee is a winner