Coffee is a very popular beverage in Sweden, with statistics suggesting that the country is the third largest consumer of coffee worldwide, with only Finland and the Netherlands above them on the list. One huge part of this is due to the unique coffee culture in Sweden, which includes a tradition called fika, among other things. Fika is described as many things depending on who you speak to, with some viewing it as a concept or a state of mind, while to others it’s simply a coffee break. However, the one thing that most people will agree on is that fika is a social tradition that is usually associated with drinking a good cup of coffee.
What is Fika?
Fika is generally described as a break where you can enjoy a good coffee and a catch up with your friends and family. Traditionally, fika in Sweden will be enjoyed with a traditional sweet pastry like fika bread. While it’s commonly something that people meet up to do in a café, it’s a coffee break that you can do anywhere including meeting rooms, parks, or even at your home. You can do it at any time, and for however long you like. Fika is a daily tradition for many people in Sweden, whether they enjoy a coffee break with friends, family, work colleagues, or do it at work, home, or at a café. Many Swedish companies encourage fika as part of the company culture and some even make it mandatory for employees.
Why is Fika Different to a Normal Coffee Break?
At first glance, fika might just seem like any old coffee break to most people. However, for those in Sweden, it means much more than that. Along with describing a coffee break, fika is also defined as a concept; it’s all about taking the time to slow down and appreciate the coffee in front of you and the people that you are with. This ‘state of mind’ encourages people to take the time to take a break from whatever they are doing, relax over coffee, and appreciate the people that are around you. For most Swedish people, it is how they meet up and socialize with one another, whether it’s catching up with old friends over a cup of coffee and talking together, or a business meeting.
What sets fika apart from other coffee breaks is the slower, more relaxed pace and the fact that it is actually all about enjoying the coffee and spending time with others. You don’t have to gulp the coffee down quickly while you are filling out paperwork – it encourages you to actually step away from whatever you are doing, whether you are working around the home or in the office, to enjoy a coffee break and spend some quality time with the people in your life.
Swedish Coffee and Fika History
Coffee was first introduced in Sweden all the way back in the late seventeenth century. It quickly became very popular among the country, but this soon concerned the locals, who worried that the rapid popularity growth of coffee would have a negative impact on the profits of the local beer brewers. In response to this, there was a royal edit issued in 1746, which placed heavy taxes on the consumption of coffee and tea. Anybody who failed to pay these taxes would have their dishes and cups confiscated. And in 1756, Sweden went even further and banned coffee completely, but this did not deter many Swedish people at the time, who continued to drink it anyway.
After a while, King Gustav III, who believed that coffee was a public health risk, conducted a study with two convicted murderers. The first murderer was ordered to drink three pots of coffee per day, and the second was ordered to drink tea instead, for the rest of their lives. However, the doctors conducting the study died before they got any results, and in 1792, the king was assassinated. While there were some further attempts by the Swedish government at the time to ban coffee again, these were a thing of the past by the 1820s, and during the nineteenth century, coffee consumption boomed once again.
The origin of fika is less known, but there is a common myth that claims that it all started during the time that coffee was banned, where coffee lovers would meet in secret to enjoy a cup of coffee. Since they weren’t able to make it known that they were going for coffee due to the ban, they would use the word ‘kaffi’ rather than the regular spelling of ‘kaffe’, and fika is almost an anagram of kaffi.
Specialty Coffee in Sweden
With fika making up such a huge part of Swedish culture, there are lots of interesting questions about coffee here, including whether or not fika has a place in the world of specialty coffee. Like other Scandinavian countries, Sweden is a main specialty coffee market, although most people here do still see coffee as a commodity despite this. That being said, the people in Sweden are interested in learning more about specialty coffee, and as a result, it is growing in popularity in the country. There are many roasteries all over Sweden that have helped to promote and communicate quality and specialty when it comes to coffee, and fika itself provides a chance for the consumers themselves to talk about the story of coffee from the farm all the way to their cup, which is a huge part of the new third wave coffee culture.
How to Brew Coffee the Traditional Swedish Way
Traditionally, Swedish coffee is brewed in a unique way using an egg to make Scandinavian egg coffee. Legend has it that this recipe for brewing coffee originated on the way from Sweden to America during the 1800s, and it has become a standing tradition in Lutheran church gatherings in the Midwest where Scandinavian-Americans serve coffee after the service.
To make egg coffee the Swedish way, a raw egg is added to the coffee grounds before the coffee is brewed, which creates a mixture like potting soil. Adding the egg will help to clarify the coffee and make it easier for the grounds to separate from the water. Egg white is useful for extracting the bitterness from the coffee grounds, along with enhancing the caffeine in the coffee. As a result, the coffee is light and clear, with no bitterness and an easy-to-drink texture. After just a few minutes of simmering this coffee, the grounds will begin to clump together and float to the top, giving the coffee its milder taste. Along with this, adding cold water towards the end of brewing creates a similar effect to a French press, encouraging the mass of grounds to sink towards the bottom of the pot. You can use either a regular saucepan, enamel Swedish coffee maker, or pot to make the Swedish egg coffee recipe.
How to make Swedish egg coffee?
- Nine and a quarter cups of water, divided
- Three quarters of a cup freshly ground coffee; medium to coarse grounds works best
- One large egg
- One cup of cold water
- Gather your ingredients.
- Bring nine cups of water to the boil quickly in a saucepan or coffee pot.
- When waiting for the water to reach the boiling point, stir the coffee grounds, remaining quarter of a cup of water, and the egg together in a measuring cup or small bowl.
- Once the water has reached a boil, carefully pour the egg and coffee mixture in. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for three minutes, making sure that it doesn’t boil over.
- The coffee grounds should bind together gradually into a mass that will float to the top of your pot. Once this happens, remove the pot from the heat immediately.
- Pour in a cup of cold water and leave the coffee to sit for ten minutes to allow the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom of the pot.
- Once the grounds have sunk to the bottom, pour the coffee through a strainer or fine sieve into your cups, serve, and enjoy.
Tips for Making Better Swedish Egg Coffee
If you want to make Swedish egg coffee and enjoy fika at home with family or friends, there are some tips and tricks to keep in mind to help you get the best results from this brewing method. The longer you allow the coffee to simmer for, the stronger the flavor will grow without any bitterness. The mixture of coffee grounds and egg can easily boil over, so it’s important to watch the pot carefully and reduce the heat as and when necessary to keep this from happening. Adding water at the end is an important step that you should never skip, since this will cause the coffee grounds to drop to the bottom of the pot. And finally, remember that this coffee will be safe to drink since the boiling water will kill any bacteria that may be present in the egg.
In Sweden, coffee is a long tradition with unique brewing methods and fika, which is a concept around slowing down, taking a moment to enjoy the coffee and spending time with others.