The best coffee break you will ever have. This is Swedish fika. Time stays still, you forget about the hectic morning and all meetings stressing you, and you sit down on a comfy lounger. A lovely smell of roasted dark coffee rises to your nose, and you get that lovely bite of the soft cinnamon bun.
Fika. This is a very unique Swedish concept, but in short, it means taking a break and having coffee and something small to eat, many times it is something sweet, like a cinnamon bun. Fika is alto a time to socialize with others.
History of fika
The word originates from a slang term derived from “kaffi,” a word for coffee. The fun thing is that in Finland, the Finn-Swedes in one dialect still have the word kaffi as coffee.
Coffee found its way to the Swedish hearts as early as the 1700s. But in 1746, the king imposed a tax on coffee. People became angry and did not want to pay it. Ten years later, coffee was banned from Sweden! This led to a black-market situation for coffee drinkers.
King Gustav III had a fear that coffee consumption caused health problems and did not want people to drink it. He failed to prove the unhealthiness of coffee in his "scientific" tests. Coffee had found its way as people's daily enjoyment, and failures of the ban resulted in its removal in the 1820s.
It was not always Swedes drank their coffee with buns, cakes, and biscuits. Sugar and other baking ingredients were expensive luxury items, and only the elite would serve sweet treats with coffee. After the wars ended the fika culture exploded. Then all ordinary people could start to afford to buy sugar and spices.
What type of coffee do Swedes drink to Fika?
Coffee is an essential part of Fika. Some like it black, others like a cappuccino. Most do drink 2 cups. People in the Nordic countries drink more coffee than anyone in the world.
Here are some famous Swedish coffee brands:
- Arvid Nordqvist. Mellanrost is very popular, the medium roasted coffee.
- Löfbergs. Löfbergs lila, the lilac package is most famous from this brand.
- Zoega. Skånerost is very popular, especially in Southern Sweden.(darkroast)
- Gevalia. MEdium ground is most popular.
- Johan & Nyström- a smaller brand with the same name coffee shops
Medium-roasted filter ground coffee is the most popular one that people buy. Many also love dark-roasted ones, and brands sell a variety of dark-roasted coffees as well. Espresso machines are also becoming more and more popular, so a large latte or cappuccino is a favorite to many nowadays.
Did you know we do fika in Finland, Norway, and Denmark too? But it has not become a thing, since the coffee breaks do not have a special name. But the idea and concept are basically the same.
Finnish people think Swedes drink motoroil, (in the past, before the espresso culture). So, what do we drink as a Finn-Swede family? We buy the Zoegas Skånerost or Forza. They are very dark roast coffees with very little acidity. We are so happy that nowadays we can buy Swedish coffee in Finnish stores. 8 years ago we had to buy heaps of it when visiting Sweden, since it was cheaper there and the variety of dark roasted coffees in Finland was non existent.
In Finland Swedish speaking people just talk about kafferast-meaning a coffee break. Often at workplaces, there are buns and cookies with the coffee. Some places even have their employees bake in turns to have something to "fika".
What about tea?
Not all swedes are coffee drinkers. But you should choose a quality tea or rooibos with your Fika, something you can sit for a while with and enjoy. In coffee shops they have a variety of different teas.
What time is fika in Sweden?
There is no set time for a Fika break, like the English five o clock tea, but usually, it is during the day.
In many working places, Fika is part of the regular daily schedule. In the morning a Fika at 10:00 and in the afternoon at 14-15. The fikapaus or fikarast (meaning coffee break) lasts 10-15 minutes at work. This coffee break is usually enjoyed in the company of your colleagues, and having some small talk. Not individually at the office desk.
But fika is also something enjoyed during the weekend. Then there is no set time, and you can sit for 1-2 hours with your friends at a coffee shop or home.
This same coffee break culture is in many other Scandinavian workplaces also. For example, in Finland, you get 2 coffee breaks with salary during the day if your day is over 7 hours. They are 10-15 minutes long depending on the contract.
Where do you fika?
- At work: If you are at work you do the fika, coffee break usually in the coffee room. Most working places have a separate room to have lunch and coffee break.
- Coffee shop. Most cosy plaze to have a fika. This can be done during the day with colleagues, meeting a friend or on your own. On weekends, fika can last longer, and maybe some savory brunch snack or small lunch is enjoyed as fika.
- Home: Fika can be done at home also. Fika by yourself by taking a pause from work but best enjoyed with some company. Look up for the granny's cute coffee cups and serve some cinnamon buns or savory treats.
What is fikabröd?
Bröd, meaning bread, is not actually regular bread when talking in the context of Fika. It can mean all sorts of buns and pastries, both sweet and savory. If you go to a cafe and ask for fikabröd, they would most likely serve you a bun.
This is how you order fika in Sweden
- En kopp caffe, tack! – A cup of coffee, please!
- En kopp te, tack! - A cup of tea, please.
- Dammsugare – vacuum cleaner (green marzipan rolls, shaped like cylinder vacuum cleaners)
- En kanelbulle tack- a cinnamon bun thank you!
- Fikabröd – coffee pastry, can be sweet or savory
- Chockladboll-chocolate ball
- Ska vi ses över en fika någon gång? – Shall we have a coffee together some time?
Traditional things to eat during fika, fikabröd:
- Dammsugare-vacuum cleaners, punch rolls, green chocolaty marzipan treats.
- Princesstårta-Princess cake, a cake with whipped cream, sponge cake, raspberry jam, and a green marzipan coat.
- Napoleon kaka-Napoleon pastry. Puff pastries with vanilla custard, whipped cream and jam.
- Salt paj-Savory pie
Below are more popular treats for Fika. These you can bake at home. Click to the recipe.
Places to have Fika in central Stockholm
Gamla stan, the old town
- Cafe Schweizer
- Cafe Krans
- Skeppsbro bageri
- Cafe Albert
- Kafe Himlavalvet
- Jacobs coffee
- Systrarna Andersson
- Wilmer caffebar
- Bageriet bulleboden
- Wilmer kaffebar
- Cafe Frankfurt
- Karla cafe
- Cafe Albert
- Cafe Arte
- Stora Bageriet
- Cafe Pascal
- Systrarna Andersson
- Cafe Blåbär
- Mellqvist Cafe o Bar
There are also many nice chain coffee shops like Espresso house, Johan&Nyström and Wayne's coffee. Stockholm is filled with nice coffee shops. Just take your google maps, write cafe and you will get locations with many pictures and can decide what type of atmosphere you like.
Many cafes also serve savory things like salads, filled sandwiches, soups, and savory pies. All great for lunch.