Photo: TT

Why Sweden is a coffee lover’s paradise

Spend a day or two wandering around Sweden and you’ll spot many people relaxing with a coffee and a cinnamon bun – but you might not realise that you’re actually witnessing a centuries-old Swedish tradition take place before your very eyes.

Yep, that’s ‘fika’ – a national institution – where Swedes drop whatever they’re doing to take a moment and have a break. In Sweden, ‘fika’ is more than just a coffee break – it’s a way of life.

In fact, it’s so famous that there have even been whole books written about it. In ‘Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break’, authors Anna Brones and Johanna Kundvall write: “Fika is the moment that you take a break, with a cup of coffee, and find a baked good to pair with it. You can do it alone, you can do it with friends. You can do it at home, in a park or at work. But the essential thing is that you do it, that you make time to take a break: that’s what fika is all about.”

And when it comes to coffee culture, Sweden certainly knows its stuff. Studies show that Swedish coffee drinkers sip an average of 7,000 cups per year – alongside their Scandinavian neighbours, that makes Swedes the biggest coffee drinkers on the planet.

But fika isn’t all about the coffee. As Brones and Kundvall point out, it’s important to pair it with a baked good – and when you come to Sweden, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Cinnamon buns (kanelbullar) are the tradition, but many opt for chocolate mud cake (kladkakka) or Napoleon Cake – a pastry so iconic that it has its own national day, on 17 November every year.

If you’re wondering how Swedes get any work done around these all-important coffee breaks, you might be surprised. Swedish workplaces generally encourage fika, and many host the tradition for their employees twice a day – once in the morning (förmiddagsfika) and once in the afternoon (eftermiddagsfika). With studies ranking Sweden as the world’s second most productive nation, maybe that caffeine and sugar boost is pretty important after all!

Next time you visit Sweden, make sure you fika like a Swede.

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