You know what’s better than coffee? Coffee outside.
When you brew coffee outdoors, a normal routine instantly becomes something exciting. You are forced to get creative, maybe balance your stove on a rock or a piece of driftwood. You are removed from the comfort of your kitchen, instantly going from boring morning coffee brewer to Indiana Jones coffee brewer. Life is an adventure and so is the cup in front of you.
For any coffee-loving outdoor enthusiast, not having coffee along for an adventure is unthinkable. There was a time when people turned to the unthinkable—instant coffee, I’m looking at you—but nowadays outdoor brands have stepped up their coffee game, realizing that there is a market of people who love to make coffee no matter where they are, and they want to make it well.
One of those brands is Snow Peak, whose aesthetically pleasing yet highly functional products have gained a cult following. I myself am a Snow Peak addict, with not only one, but two of their coffee brewing devices: the foldable, stainless steel dripper and the titanium French press. They each serve a purpose. The dripper is small, foldable, and easy to pack. The French press is, well, beautiful, and there’s something wonderful about pouring out of a French press when you’re outside, be it in your backyard or on a backpacking trip.
That the brand hails from Japan might come as no surprise. These backcountry brewing devices aren’t just popular in the outdoor, we-love-not-taking-showers world. On the Stumptown website, you can buy the Snow Peak dripper, proof that these tools aren’t just wilderness approved, they’re coffee geek approved too. And maybe partly because Snow Peak USA calls Portland, Oregon, home just like Stumptown. We all know there’s something in the water there.
I caught up with Nate Borne, General Manager at Snow Peak USA to learn more about the Snow Peak coffee connection and what goes into the brand’s design process.
Snow Peak balances aesthetics and functionality so well. What goes into designing a piece of Snow Peak equipment?
The designers at Snow Peak take the phrase “form ever follows function” very seriously when they set out to design something. Designing for the outdoors is a beautiful design challenge and poses some really fun objectives. The idea is to remove obstructions keeping people from enjoying the outdoors with sophisticated solutions. We strive to solve those problems with gear that inspires a connection to the outdoors. The final product that ends up in the market would have gone through a year of iterations and tests with the most strict quality control standards.
What was behind the decision to focus on so many coffee-specific products?
Portland, like Japan, is a culture dedicated to that morning ritual of tea and coffee. A morning isn’t started until you sip on a fresh brew. Likewise, a morning in the outdoors deserves the same attention. We want the experience of the outdoors to linger with you every time you make a coffee, even if that is in your studio apartment.
From my knowledge, you are the only company who makes a collapsible dripper out of metal. What went into designing that?
It was part of a holistic approach to designing nestable, collapsible, or otherwise compact gear we’ve been pursuing for more than a decade. The coffee drip was designed back in 2002 and due to more recent coffee trends, this 13-year-old product has made a new life for itself and it is exciting to see.
Do you think that there is a link between people that love the outdoors and people who love drinking coffee?
I think there is something to that assertion. There is something very basic and American that includes coffee as an essential part of camping. I don’t know how direct that link is, but I do know that coffee fanatics, who love the craft and process of making a great cup, love Snow Peak because of our similar love of the craft and design of the products we make.
Are there a lot of coffee drinkers on staff at Snow Peak?
It’s a main part of our workflow. Our neighboring coffee shops are more like an extension [of] our office and are our preferred location for meetings of any type.
It seems like there has been a growing interest in backcountry brewing of coffee. Why do you think that is?
There seems to me an unending enthusiasm for drinking and preparing coffee for which I have to thank the many waves of the coffee industry. The growing interest in backcountry brewing (in my opinion) is because we have tasted the apple and cannot go back to that instant cowboy coffee of our fathers. After experiencing a micro-roasted, single-origin, direct-trade coffee, you figure out how to have that coffee anywhere and everywhere.
Anna Brones (@annabrones) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Paris, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break, available now from Ten Speed Press. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.