Story and Photos by Anna Brones
On trips, there are two categories of people: Those who are willing to stop in the middle of the day, take out the stove and have a proper coffee break. And those who power through. If you’re in the first camp, you get it. Rarely have I not stopped for the midday ritual with a freshly brewed cup (due only to exhaustion or time constraints).
There is something special about enjoying a coffee break in the wild, even on a simple day hike. It’s a lot more fun than a sip of water and a handful of trail mix. And it encourages you to be in the moment, less focused on the destination, more on the now. After all, that’s often what attracts us to the outdoors in the first place.
In Swedish, the coffee break is known as fika. As a word, “fika” can function both as a noun and a verb. “I want to fika,” and “I would like to stop for a fika.” Fika is an iconic part of Swedish culture, a small moment that’s devoted to slowing down. Usually there’s a social component—coffee is after all a social lubricant in many cultures—but you can certainly fika alone too. Fika usually involves a small baked good as well.
In Sweden, you fika at cafes, at friends’ houses, on the train and in the mountains. Several summers ago, I hiked a part of the Kungsleden, a trail above the Arctic Circle in Sweden. And guess what they have some of the more established huts along the trail. That’s right, fika.
I incorporate fika into all of my adventures. My husband and I have deemed any fika break while bicycle touring a “bika.” We have even fika’ed on short kayak excursions, just to sip on a sandspit. And now with MSR’s new PocketRocket Deluxe Stove and Pika Teapot, we can enjoy an excellent fika outdoors.
How to Bring Fika on the Trail
There’s no wrong way to fika, but here are a few guidelines.
Coffee and brew method
Your coffee and brew method up to you. Bring ground beans or sacrifice a little weight and bring a hand grinder. Or opt for instant coffee. While instant coffee gets a bad rap, there are many new brands working hard to improve its reputation. If I do buy instant, I like Voilà Coffee.
Trail treats are what keep us going, right? If you don’t feel like cooking on-trail, easy-pack treats like peanut butter cookies and brownies are great. Or make some sans-sugar energy balls at home before you head out.
Find a comfortable spot with a view
You know the drill. Every cup of coffee tastes exponentially better with a spectacular view.
A Fika Recipe
If you’re going to make coffee and a treat on-trail, you want it to be simple. Smulpaj is a popular Swedish dessert. It pairs perfectly with a dark cup of coffee, and it’s easy to adapt for outdoor adventures. This recipe is a deconstructed crumble, made with dried apples and a mixture that you make at home.
For those avoiding gluten, this recipe works great with brown rice flour. The dried apples are to keep the recipe lightweight, but on a day trip or shorter excursion you could certainly chop up a fresh apple too. It’s easy to save money (not to mention single-use plastic packaging) and dry your own apples at home; find the recipe here.
Makes: About 4 portions
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup brown rice flour or all purpose flour
¼ chopped hazelnuts
¼ cup chopped almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, depending on how salty you like things
4 tablespoons coconut oil
About one dried apple
Mix together all of the dry ingredients and store in an airtight container or resealable bag.
Cut or tear the dried apple into smaller pieces, then soak the apples to rehydrate them a little bit. Do this by placing the apple pieces in a cup or bowl and covering with water. Set aside while you brew your coffee and prepare the other ingredients.
Place the apple crumble mix and the coconut oil in a pan or pot. Place over medium heat and stir regularly, so that as the coconut oil melts and mixes in. Once the coconut oil is mixed in, continue to stir occasionally for a couple more minutes.
Drain off the liquid from the apples (it will taste like a super sweet apple juice, so don’t let it go to waste) and add them to the crumble mixture. Stir together and let cook for an additional minute or two, so that the apples warm up.
Spoon into bowls and serve.
Anna Brones is a writer, producer and artist. She is the author of several books including Hello, Bicycle and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Find more of her work at annabrones.com or on Instagram @annabrones.