Campfire Coffee in Tacoma about to expand – on both the café and adventure fronts

A Tacoma coffee shop located right downtown has a mission beyond delicious caffeinated drinks. The owners of Campfire Coffee also have a deep love for the great outdoors and want to help spread that joy to more people of color.

Shop and roastery owners, Quincy and Whitni Henry have found their shop resonates so deeply with customers, they’re about to open up a second location in Tacoma.

“Who in the Pacific Northwest doesn’t love coffee?” said Mariama Suwaneh, a Campfire Coffee customer.

The Henrys agree that any cup of coffee tastes even better in the great outdoors – like that first hot sip on a brisk morning when camping.

“It’s everything,” Quincy said. “You can’t not have that cup of coffee while you’re camping,” Whitni said.

A few years ago, they decided to fuse their loves, coffee and nature – opening up their shop Campfire Coffee in Tacoma in 2020.

“All the coffee beans are roasted over open flame,” Quincy said. “It is a softer type of heat and it kind of dances around the bean,” he said.

The idea evolved, starting with roasting beans in a popcorn tin at a campsite, before upgrading to actual drum coffee roasters. This reporter is no coffee expert but sampled the Mountaintop Express blend would describe the flavor as smooth and vibrant, with just a hint of smokiness on the exhale – but only if you’re looking for it.

Their roasted beans are “Summer Camp” by Campfire Coffee is also available at Trader Joe’s.

Nature and coffee coalesce at the café. Pacific Northwest rainforest scenes cover certain walls, and family photos of adventures in the wild serve as décor. All the wooden tables and benches are handmade by Quincy.

But the Henrys have honed an homage to the outdoors that dives deeper than décor. They’re also striving to share – and make possible for others – the experiences that have helped them build such a strong love for nature.

“There is no feeling like being surrounded by trees that are hundreds of feet tall, just looking up and seeing, you know, little bits of the sky, little bits of sun poking through the trees,” Whitni said. “It’s such a good feeling and everybody should get to feel that,” she said.

But they have noticed one shortcoming out there – a lack of color in the patrons.

“I still get all the time from family – there’s bears in the woods, there better be a hotel in the woods. You’re not going to catch me on no trails,’” Quincy said.

Researchers examining the “nature gap” point to Jim Crow laws that kept Black Americans out of certain parks. Henry also points to the historic trauma of slavery.

“I think some of that trauma has been passed down. Like you come here and you’re forced to work the land in a way. So that’s a negative relationship,” Quincy said. “Then from there, it’s like you’re kind of pushed now into inner cities,” he said.

“I’m talking to kids about camping or outdoors or whatever, and you’ll hear without fail -- some amount of kids in that group have never even left their (Tacoma) neighborhood, the literal neighborhood,” Quincy said.

So the Henrys are working to build a path to lower the barriers of accessing nature.

They have a gear library to rent equipment like sleeping bags or trekking poles for free. The gear doesn’t fit into the coffee shop and is in storage where their beans are located, so you’ll have to ask about what’s available to borrow for now.

Campfire Coffee also teams up with outdoor groups to support hikes, snowshoes, walks, and other adventures.

And they’re about to launch where adventurists teach skills at the coffee shop, like how to set up a tent.

“Nature is the one true democracy we have,” Quincy said.

Customers like Suwaneh’s reaction to the whole concept of Campfire Coffee?

“Living in the PNW it’s a beautiful idea to bring the two together,” Suwaneh said. “And the coffee is 10 out of 10.”

The Henrys are about to open up their second location of Campfire Coffee in Tacoma, as well as a roastery they’re open to up to the public this year.