HaliPuu's Campfire Barista – Sirkka, Finland - Gastro Obscura

Gastro Obscura

HaliPuu's Campfire Barista

Sirkka, Finland

In the Hugging Tree Forest, lingonberry marshmallows, hot chocolates, and the best campfire lattes north of the Arctic Circle come to you. 

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Steffan Wunderink runs a truly one-of-a-kind cafe, if you can call it that. The “Campfire Barista” makes cafe-quality coffees, teas, and more over an open fire that he drags behind a snowmobile through a forest in the far northern reaches of Finland. It’s not just any forest, though.

The forest belongs to his wife’s grandfather, Kaarle Raekallio. The Finnish state gave his family the forest after they lost their home during World War II. After spending decades raising the forest to be processed as timber, however, Raekallio decided to put the trees up for adoption and allow tourists to come spend time with the now dozens of trees on the property. It’s now known as Finland’s Hugging Tree Forest. It was while working as a guide in this forest, serving tourists campfire lattes, that Wunderink became the Campfire Barista.

He developed a reputation around town for crafting wondrously smoky, espresso-based drinks and turning a local oddity called chagaan antioxidant-rich mushroom that grows on birch trees—into chai lattes, all over an open fire. After a woman from the local tourism office complained about having to trek into the woods every day for her espressos, the C.F.B. bought a snowmobile and built a sled that could safely hold a fire grill. The cafe was now mobile, but as his caffeine empire refined, he needed beans that could better harness the flavor of the smoke.

After asking around town for a source of organic, fair-trade coffee, he found a friend with ties to a single-estate, biodynamic coffee farm in Tamil Nadu, India. If it sounds too good to be true, the same friend also happened to operate a solar-powered coffee roaster out of a converted sea-container in town. Working directly with Wunderink, this well-found friend was able to roast beans to perfectly suit the flavor of an open fire.

During winter months, you can catch Wunderink’s cafe in front of the tourism office in the center of town, in his family’s forest, or at a number of public events. Without snow in the warmer months, he’s restricted to stationary events and festivals. His menu has expanded beyond espresso-based drinks and chaga chai to selling white jasmine tea, organic rooibos tea, warm blackcurrant juice, lingonberry marshmallows you can roast over his fire, lingonberry cookies from his wife’s recipe, and chocolate dunkers—lumps of chocolate on a stick for children to dunk into hot water for hot chocolate. 

You may not think you’re ready for parenthood, but no one’s ever ready. Adopt a tree in Northern Finland, and you’ll know what to do when you visit. And when you visit, there’s sure to be a smoky latte waiting for you.

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