Everybody’s gotta get away sometime, right? Vacate the present, possibly monotonous scene. Get a welcome change of scenery. Recharge the proverbial batteries. Well, here at FIKA coffee, we’re no exception. When we’re so up to here with whatever it is we’ve had enough of that even the smell of freshly roasted coffee doesn’t cure us, we hedge our bets and go camping.
When times are tough, the tough get camping. That’s our motto at FIKA Coffee or at least our mantra when we’re scrounging around in the shed for the rogue tent pole. We love camping. It’s fresh air, a new view, startling beauty and unavoidable intentionality all in one handy weekend. Sitting by the fire as stars creep out from behind night’s dark curtain, catching a rainbow trout, its markings worthy of such a name, waking to a morning so quiet your very breath might disturb it. These are the things that we crave in our escape to the great outdoors.
Oh, and coffee. Always coffee.
Because part of camping’s charm is its simplicity and because we believe in always using a brew method that matches the tone of the day (see this blog for more on that ideal), when we brew camp coffee, we keep it pretty basic.
There’s two primary ways we brew coffee while camping. The first method is used when we’re base-camping (setting up camp on a rocky island or lake cove and taking day trips out, always returning to our site each evening) and the second is used when we’re covering miles, setting up and tearing down camp every day, often portaging long distances with all our gear.
For that style of camping, the get-up-and-go style, space is at a premium, so we usually just boil and brew our coffee water in whatever pot we’ve brought for the rest of our camp cooking. If you know ahead of time how big your pot is, you’ll know how much coffee to bring for each day--we use 1.5-2 grams of coffee to an ounce of water. As for water, we use what the lake has to offer (filtered, of course) and boil it over an open flame, either a fire or a camp stove. Letting the water sit for one minute off-heat after the boil, we pour the grounds in (our coffee’s been pre-measured and pre-ground at home) and give them a gentle stir. Four minutes later, we stir one more time and pour, most of the grounds having sunk to the bottom. This method is commonly called Cowboy Style and it’s darn good. Especially when served with bacon.
Now, as we said earlier, if we’re base-camping, the scenario affords a little more luxury. We’ll often bring our hand grinder (it’s kind of cathartic to meticulously grind coffee around a fire) and a French press, our unground beans pre-measured into small baggies. The water is still boiled in our cooking pot and still left to sit off-boil for one minute but is poured over the grounds rather than the other way around. After about weight minutes, we plunge the press, pour a cup and relish in the simple work of our hands.
Either way you do it, coffee (and bacon!) done right is an ideal way to start a day of wilderness adventure. Whether we’re paddling long miles on one of the BWCA’s pristine lakes or taking a hike along the meandering paths of the Superior Hiking Trail, with a satisfying cup of coffee in our recent past, we’re good to go.
Norway, they have a word for that, for the coffee you drink while taking in nature and all its splendor. The word is turkaffe and it literally means “hiking coffee”. More than just a literal cup of coffee drunk while hiking, turkaffe, to Norwegians (and to FIKA Coffee) is a ritual, a necessary element, a part of camping or hiking so essential its ranked up there with tent stakes and location of the site privy. And its not just the coffee itself that’s so crucial but the art of brewing it well, realizing its part in the intentionality of the weekend’s excursion. Turkaffe is coffee brewed with a slow flame and a slow mind. It’s coffee sipped with gratitude for the contrast to normal life that wilderness camping is. Turkaffe is part of the allure, the respite, the reason.