If you were to drive to Fika Coffee from the Twin Cities — and there’s not much of a reason to, at least for now, as it’s little more than a 12-kilo coffee roaster and a dream — you’d need to travel up I-35 to Duluth. And then you’d need to go a couple of hours more up the North Shore until you reached Grand Marais. Leaving downtown, you’d travel up the Gunflint Trail before zigging off into the woods, where you’d eventually come across a house and a shed. That shed is Fika Coffee. A sense of place, of course, is relative: to Fika proprietor Joshua Lindstrom, that backwoods roaster is the center of the world
“I was born up here, but we moved away due to the fact that my parents couldn’t keep a job up here that was year round and sustainable,” says Lindstrom. “That’s a big issue up here, and housing is, too. Now it’s morphed into more than just a way than I can keep my family up here. Hopefully, the big picture is that we can create a couple of jobs that are year round, and do that by getting wholesale accounts, so all winter long — and fall — we can keep working.”
Lindstrom started Fika last summer and got his organic certification in June. “A lot of people are into [organics],” he says. “Before, I would still roast organic coffee, but I couldn’t market it that way.”
Asked about his philosophy of roasting, Lindstrom says: “I lean more on the sweet side. I’d rather have a coffee sweet than bright. Some coffees might be a better bright coffee… One thought I had is we need more good coffee. There’s plenty of bad coffee out there, and there’s some great coffee, but we need more good coffee out there.”
Lindstrom’s raw beans come largely from Minneapolis-based Cafe Imports, and while he sells coffee directly to consumers online, much of his present energy is used in the hunt for local wholesale accounts, so that his coffee can become the predominant flavor of morning in Grand Marais. The Angry Trout and Crooked Spoon carry Fika coffee, as does World’s Best Donuts. It’s not, perhaps, accidental that those establishments are such linchpins of visitors to Grand Marais seeking a calming summer getaway. The idea of a civilized pause is central to Fika’s identity.
“Fika’s a Swedish word for coffee break,” says Lindstrom. “I haven’t been to Sweden to experience it, but I’ve gathered that at 9:30am and 3:30pm it’s a very religious thing. I was talking to a guy at the farmers market, and he told me about two experiences he had with fika in Sweden. The first is that he was driving north and all of a sudden, cars were pulling off [to] the side of the road. People were stopping and pulling out their thermoses and hard boiled eggs and having fika. The second, he was with another scientist who was from there, and they were walking through a marshy swamp, and it was time, and he just stopped dead in his tracks, standing in his waders in the swamp, and had his fika. Coffee is a beverage of people. It’s a community drink.”
Looking forward, Lindstrom sees Fika as a brand that will physically take root in Grand Marais, even as it branches out elsewhere: “I wanted a word that would fit the culture here, but would also be able to leave. I like what that meaning is, being able to connect with people. One day, when I can set up a space in town that’s welcoming…”