Enjoy the coffee break! Take a Swedish "fika"
Do you sometimes feel a bit guilty when you take a coffee-break at work? You really shouldn't, because a coffee-break can be a positive thing both for you and your work. A coffee-break can also be a success on a first date and is an important social event. Read on about how to take a coffee-break the Swedish way, or as we call it; lets have a fika!
The word “fika” is a typical Swedish word and as far as I know there is no similar word in other language. A fika is not just to have a coffee or to take a pause, it is much more than that and the most important thing with a fika is the social aspect.
What time during the day are the right time for a Swedish fika?
In Sweden most people take a fika several times a day and since we do a lot of fika we must distribute the coffee breaks evenly over the day; we have morning-fika, afternoon-fika, a fika after dinner, a evening-fika and someday during the day we probably also take a quick fika. The word fika can mean different things depending on the place, the situation and what to eat. But in this article I will stick to the meaning of fika as a cup of coffee or tea and something small to eat.
Another way to describe how we distribute the Swedish fika over the day is: we drink coffee to breakfast, lunch, dinner and the evening meal, and we also have fika in between those meals!
So, as you can see, anytime during the day is the right time for a fika!
Some fact about coffee in Sweden
Sweden is among the top countries when it comes to consume coffee compared to population.
Adult Swedes consume on average 1200 cups of coffee per year or 11 kilo witch means that every adult person drinks four cups a day.
Finland is the top coffee consumers with 12,8 kg per grown up citizen and year.
Some history about coffee in Sweden
To drink coffee or to have a fika is an old tradition in Sweden and has been something of a culture for a long time. The coffee came to Sweden around year 1670 or 1680 and was at first considered to be a medication witch only could be bought in a pharmacy. The taste for coffee grew rapidly and the fist coffee shops opened after a while with many more to follow. Coffee is still the number one social drink in Sweden even if many Swedes drink a lot of tea as well
Historically there should be at least seven different cookies and preferable more than seven when coffee was served and the event was called a kafferep in Swedish, (a coffee rope in English). It was a sort of an unwritten label rule and historically it was also a way to compete between housewives, showing both standard and skill. The word kafferep in the old way was unfortunately connected to gossip between females but I think it was an important social event for housewives. Nowadays we don't use the word kafferep so much but it can be used whenever you are more than two people drinking coffee and talking.
My coffee consumption during an ordinary day
- Two or sometimes three cups of coffee with breakfast
- One cup of coffee at 9:30, a fika
- One cup after lunch at 12:30
- One cup at 14:30, a fika
Sometimes I meet friends in town and have a cup or two on a fika.
I normally don’t drink coffee later then around 18:00 in the evening because I can't sleep if I drink coffee to late at night.
Where are the right place for a Swedish fika?
You can have a fika practically everywhere and in every possible circumstance. We have a fika at home, at work, in the city on a café or in a park, in school, in the woods, on the field, at the gym, in a boat at sea, on the beach, in a neighbors house, in bed, at the hairdresser and in every shop where there is a coffee machine or a coffee maker or even in a spa. We can have a fika in a food store, at a market, on a sports event, at a funeral, a birthday party or a wedding. We can have a fika before dinner as well as a cup after dinner. We can have a fika while we talk on the phone, while we travel by car or bus or tube or even while we do some shopping with friends. When you order dinner or lunch at restaurant there are usually one or two cups of coffee included in the price in Sweden. There are no rules besides that it is perfectly all right to have a fika everywhere you are and anytime you want!
What is a fika?
There are several different coffee varieties to buy in the grocery store and you can get your coffee in any way you want. The grocery stores have coffee from all over the world and it can be a hard work to find the right sort for you.
The first you need to decide is how you want your coffee made; boiled, brewed, prezzo or a coffee made by an advanced coffee machine.
After that you have to decide the flavour and strength you want. Personally I preferred coffee that is both boiled and brewed with a strong flavour and strength witch gives me a coffee that is both hot enough as well as strong enough.
During the last years there has been an explosion of new ways to drink coffee and Sweden seem to have adopted all types of the worlds way of drinking coffee and made them Swedish. You can now go to the trendiest coffee shops and choose caffé latte, chai latte, espresso, frappino, coffee macchiato, cappuccino and you can also combine your coffee with mineral water.
Personally I still prefer to drink my coffee black and without sugar.
What to eat on a fika!
You can eat almost everything you want on a fika but in Sweden there are some types of cakes and pastry that is more common to eat.
The most common pastry in February in Sweden is the Swedish Semla. A semla is a big delicious wheat bun with almond paste and a fluffy layer of cream on top.
Another pastry I can recommend is the Danish pastry witch we call a wienerbröd. It is one of my personal favorite since there is nothing that can compete with a fresh, newly baked Danish pastry with the brittle texture and the lovely vanilla sauce in the middle and powdered sugar on top.
Besides the above described pastries there are many more pastries witch are common on a Swedish fika such as the Napoleon Pastry, the Budapest pastry and the Gustaf Adolf pastry just to mention a few. Or you can have small cookies, a bit ice-cream or cheesecake to your fika if you prefer something smaller. Anything is ok to eat on a fika!
But the most common to eat on a Swedish fika in any time of the year must be the kanelbulle! A kanelbulle is basically a wheat bun filled with cinnamon, sugar and butter and pearl sugar on top.
Imagine a fika with homemade cinnamon buns! It is an indescribably flavor sensation that must be experienced. Watch the video below for recipe and instructions on how to make Swedish cinnamon buns, try them out and enjoy!
Recipe and instructions, Swedish Cinnamon buns
Have you tried a Swedish fika?
Traditional cakes and pastry on a fika
There are some occasions during the year which requires some specific cakes or pastry on a fika.
From December to Easter
The typical pastry in Sweden to a fika during this time is the Semla witch is a wheat bun filled with almond paste and cream.
The Swedish National day the 6:e of June
On the Swedish National day we eat a National day pastry witch consists of a mazarin bottom topped by strawberries, lemon balm and a Swedish flag.
The typical pastry on Midsummer Eve is a cream cake which we normally eat after the dancing around the Maypole but also later at night.
12 December Lucia
On the 12.e of December we celebrate Lucia in Sweden and the typical cake and pastry on Lucia is Ginger Thins and Lussebullar. A Lussebulle is a wheat bun with saffron and raisins.
Some words that are good to know connected to fika
The word fika is a noun and is typically Swedish. But fika is also a verb and means to socialize while drinking coffee.
Påtår- whitch means a refill of coffee.
Kaffehalv- means a cup of coffee with half the cup or less depending on your taste with licker, preferably the Swedish brand Renat.
Kafferep- which in English would be “coffee rope”. (See above under Some history about coffee in sweden for explanation)
Fikabröd- In English fika bread, meaning everything you eat on a fika
Sju sorters kakor- which means seven sorts of cookies witch was the minimal amount of different sorts of cookies that where considered to be enough on a real kafferep historically.
Mellanmål- a fika is a Swedish mellanmål which means a meal between any of the other more regular meals like breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Go-fika, a go-fika is a fika with especially tasty sweets, cookies, pasties or cakes. It is a real treat and a go-fika can be different for different persons meaning everything you really like.
The benefits we get from a fika
Even though there are an enormous amount of different ways to drink coffee and an enormous amount of fikabröd the most important thing is to have a relaxed moment and some good company.
We will also perform better at work if we take a fika.
A fika at work is a perfect and natural way to socialize and build bands with your co-workers. We feel better when we socialize with other people and it make us work better together. We get a glimpse of our co- workers in a way we normally don’t get otherwise during work time. It is also a way to empty your brain and talk about personal things that aren’t work related. To share personal things creates understanding and also a feeling of being a team, a community. And even if you talk about work during the fika you will get benefits in form of time to exchange information, to get as well as give fresh ideas to problems we may encounter in our daily work. A fika is a great way for co-workers as well as managers to meet informal and spread information about the organisation.
A fika give us a moment’s rest, an opportunity to refill our brain with inspiration from others and a time to test ideas and thoughts on others.
The best place to start a conversation with someone you know is around a coffee-machine at work or in a public place. Even a Swede finds it easy to talk around a coffee machine or in line in front of a coffee machine. There is always something to say such as; how does this machine work? Or; it takes a while to get a cup here! Or; does the coffee taste well here? Or the usual; do you go here often?
If you want to be really popular among your co- workers you can by them a really good fika. It is a really good way to get new friend and everyone will get happy and be impressed by your generosity.
A fika at work is important!Click thumbnail to view full-size
A fika is a great thing to do on a first date!
A fika is a perfect first date since a fika is a very common thing and to ask somebody out for a fika isn't such a big deal as to ask someone out for dinner. A fika is a relaxed way to get to know each other and if it for some reason goes wrong neither of you have done a big loss in money nor in prestige.
But there is one thing you should think about when you ask someone out for a fika and that is to choose the right cake to your file. Choose a cake witch is easy to eat and pay attention to your date. Later on when you know each other better you can eat all the creamy pastry you want but for the first date it is better to take something small or just a cup of coffee or tea.
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Suggestions and recipe for pastry to a fika
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