Shhhh… my coffee and I are having a moment. I will deal with you later.
As promised, out of my sheer love for cultural learning and oh, COFFEE, this blog’s dedicated to a momentary romance with coffee, or as the Swedes call it – FIKA!
Somewhere on the Island of södermalm, I found a little café on the corner with a board outside that said – FIKA! The word in itself was so sweet to read I was intrigued to google it up. “OK google! What does Fika mean?” “Fika is a coffee break”. My heart the next hyper second – “Wait, coffee? Did I hear Coffee?”
It took me a conversation with three Swedes to understand that Fika after all isn’t ‘JUST’ a coffee break. It’s so much more than that. And boy, do the Swedes hate it being called a coffee break!
My ever so curious mind didn’t stop till I learnt all about Fika (Because, well… coffee). So in my own words I’d define Fika as – a moment of meditation with coffee! More like a concept, a state of mind or a feeling. And feelings have no definite terms of description, aye? (Yup I just got a little philosophical here!)
Fika is a Swedish obsession. The swedes are one of the highest coffee consuming nations in the world (Ranking in the top 10 list). Which is why, Coffee is more than having a break or a pastime for them. Coffee for them is weaving moments of bliss and light hearted conversations with friends and family leaving all your problems behind (nop, they do not discuss problems on the coffee table). And this, my friends, is an integral part of their culture (Fika – every single day! yup.)
So how do you… Fika? You wonder?
I will help break it down for you.
- You get yourself coffee.
- You add a pastry or a muffin (anything baked basically!)
- .. you just FIKA!
The art of Fika is all about leaving all your problems behind and having a moment of bliss and relax. The Swedes believe (and you and I would second them on this), the world is getting busier by the passing minute. Problems are never ending and our hair is graying faster and sooner than ever. It would do no harm to set aside everything and enjoy a happy conversation with a friend… and just FIKA! This, as I said before, being more of a Swedish tradition and obsession, the employers even give their staff a Fika break (maybe even two sometimes). That’s how entrenched it is in the Swedish culture.
Now, as I sit back and sip on my cup of coffee while I write this piece of article here, I think how coffee really is just a ‘to-go’ option for everyone around the world (yes even me!). We all have so much on our plates every single day that a coffee break really means discussing work issues or holding up client meetings. At work a coffee break means heading to a vending machine or the cafeteria and buying yourself that use and throw cup, sipping on it while you are driving or taking the subway. When I was studying in the UK, most of my mornings were filled with coffee on the side while getting dressed or finishing an assignment. Even at the university, I would get myself coffee from the 1 pound coffee maker and run with it to the lecture theater (multitasking, please!). But ever since I got back from Sweden, mum and I try to inculcate this Fika culture in our daily routine. We are both crazy coffee lovers and we sit with our coffees in the balcony and watch the sun rise up every morning. It really is the best moment of my all-so-busy day! A rather relaxed kick start.
What are the rules of FIKA?
One of the many beautiful things about this art is there aren’t really stated rules to fika. Not a coffee fan? Drink tea instead. Don’t like a muffin, pick a croissant or a sandwich. Whatever suits you? You don’t even have to head to a café, you can Fika literally anywhere, even in the comfort of your home.
Sweden and Coffee?
If we go down the road of civilization and walk down the streets with Swedish history, Sweden and coffee have been in a rather complicated relationship from the start.
Coffee entered Sweden like a breath of fresh air in mid-16th century under King Fredrick I. However, he was never a fan of these brown beans and tried to tax the shit out of it to kick it out of their culture. With eventual failures, he then banned coffee. Over years and subsequent successors, King Adolf Fredrick levied heavier taxes on coffee, which lead to coffee smuggling and these bean babies went underground. With secret coffee shops in hidden corners of cities, the Swedish became hitched to coffee. It became an ingrained part of them. They wanted someone to build this as a culture. And hence, enter King Gustav III, from where things got creative and interesting. After several attempts of brainwashing his people against the contents of coffee, failures of PR campaigns downgrading the effects of coffee, the swedes just did not let go. He even ran an experiment where he picked twin brothers (criminals) and tried to prove the harmful effects of coffee. He fed one brother with tea and the other with coffee, each thrice a day to prove that the coffee drinking criminal would die a caffeinated death rather faster than the tea drinking criminal. Not only did both of them survive the test, they also outlived the king (in fact, the coffee drinking criminal even outlived the tea drinker).
The ban on Fika was lifted in the mid-19th century when the youth was high on rage and caffeine. Ever since, coffee and Fika has taken over Sweden like a storm and is now a cool tag.
Let’s all raise a toast to the warrior that lies in the Swedish coffee (wink!).
If you head to Sweden, DO NOT call Fika a coffee break. Just call it… Fika!
Every day, I try to have a Fika. It helps to sit back on my chair and breath fresh air in the balcony and read a book or listen to music with my strong, dark coffee. That is my Fika!
What is yours?
I enjoyed writing this post. If there is something in specific you would want to know about Stockholm or want me to write about, mention in the comments below and I will get back ASAP. Tell me about your Fika experience in the comments below. I would love to read them <3
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