Springtime in the great north woods of Minnesota means a lot of things. It mostly means erratic weather patterns (40 degrees and sunny one day, 10 degrees and 8 inches of snow the next). But it also means longer days, thawing rivers that rush with all the wildness winter kept pent up, the jubilant songs of small birds and a longing of all humans everywhere to get outside.
The trouble is, even with a desire to be outside the size of Lake Superior, early spring in northern Minnesota is often less than ideal. Mud consumes every surface that isn't still consumed by heavy, slushy snow. The days, if they aren't sunny, are the kind of wet-cold that makes your bones irritated. It's the awkward in-between time of year when the whole world seems like a teenager entering puberty. If trees could get acne, you can bet this time of year is when they'd do it.
So it's no wonder that when a legitimate, worthwhile reason to be outside in March shows up, everyone who's able jumps on board. What reason could there possibly be to slog through the sloppy, snowshoe-breaking snow of early spring?
March is prime-time for maple tree tapping and, lucky for us, there's a lot of maple trees in these woods. Nights below freezing and days above are ideal conditions for the sugary sap of a maple tree. And those wise (or crazy) enough to put forth the back-breaking work of capturing the sweet tree nectar are rewarded with gallons of golden maple syrup at the end season.
As eluded, sapping is tough work. Many hours are spent drilling holes, hauling gallons of sap, standing over a wood boiler as the sap slowly transitions to syrup (it can take 30-40 gallons of sap to make a single gallon of syrup) and finishing and bottling. Though tedious and time-consuming, the process of making maple syrups affords ample time for gathering with friends, good conversations, laughter and, of course, a fika break or two.
Now when you're making syrup, a fika break is no ordinary fika break. Sure, there's the coffee grounds and the tiny camp stove, the tin mugs and the french press. But when you're making maple syrup, water is somewhat of a naughty word when it comes to the art of coffee brewing. If you're making maple syrup, you're making coffee with sap, the slightly earthy, delicately sweet and perfectly ideal gift of the maple tree.
The coffee that pours from a french press brewed with maple sap is unlike any you've ever had and can be compared to nothing. While insufficient in description, the best way to describe a tin mug of maple sap coffee is to say that, when sipping it, the tastebuds and the heart are both extremely happy. The marriage of sap and coffee is a perfect union, one to be enjoyed again and again while the days slip away behind the tree line.
If you've got maple trees of your own, get yourself a tap and a bucket and get brewing. If you don't have your own maple tree, find a friend who does. And if you don't have a friend who has maple trees, take a drive up the north shore of Lake Superior and ask around. You're bound to find a new friend with wood ash under their nails and mud on their boots who will gladly treat you to a fika.
- Tags: FIKA