Fika, the ultimate Swedish coffee break

Photo Courtesy View Stockholm ( )

A benchmark in the art of living, Scandinavia extends its love of nature and comfort beyond borders. After the Swedish minimalism that promotes well-being and nature, the Swedes again inspire trends with fika. It is the ultimate coffee break that is becoming a worldwide success.

Fika is an art of living gaining worldwide success

Fika is the Swedish coffee break has inspired many cookbooks as well as coffee chains in New York, London, Paris and Berlin. In certain supermarkets in Europe, you can even find the typical oat cakes with the packaging decorated with a small Swedish flag. But where does this tradition come from? Fika is a way of life. Used as a noun but also as a verb, it is a real social institution in Sweden. This is the time for a break during the day to take the time to have a conversation with colleagues or with friends between classes. The interest is to refresh the spirit in a social and cozy way. The fika goes against the current of the usual take-away coffee well anchored in Western culture.

A fika is much more than a coffee break

Contrary to the “coffee to go” trends, the fika is an activity in its own. To put it simply, a fika is a break during which you drink a hot drink, with or without a snack more or less big, depending on the occasion, most often sweet, but not always. It can only take 15 minutes or three quarters of an hour. You can take your fika at the local café or tea room (konditori), at your workplace, at home, or even in the open air if the weather is right.

It is a well-known fact that Swedish workers rank among the least stressed in the world. This is undeniably linked to their approach to their daily work life where fika plays an essential role. Swedes are simply big fans of coffee and the second largest consumer in the world just behind the Finns. In Sweden, you will very rarely find a coffee in the “espresso” format: the standard capacity is more like that of a small mug.

The fika moments can be one, two or three times a day and even if they are taken in a restaurant or at a gas station, the businesses do everything so that this moment is enjoyable for their customers. In self-service, customers will usually find everything they need to prepare it to their taste: white or brown sugar, honey, milk, cinnamon, chocolate powder. The price of coffee in Sweden also differs. One does not necessarily pay a cup of coffee twice as much because there is a drop of milk in it. It is also common to give a small discount to the customer if he brings his own mug or thermos.

Fika should not be skipped

A fika is much more than a coffee break. This is an opportunity to change the air, the environment, make a break, sit with colleagues or friends, at least one drink and discuss things and others. In some workplaces, it is very frowned upon to skip a fika for any reason. If a meeting takes place at fika time (in the morning around 9.30-10pm or in the afternoon around 15h), it is customary to take a break to fetch a cup of coffee or tea and offer a pastry. In recent years, following all the food recommendations that disapprove of sugar, it is not uncommon to offer fruit, or a salty sandwich, especially for the morning fika, as some kind of second breakfast.

There are four rules of fika

A fika must be a cozy moment. At the office, it is a time to step away from work and have a chat with colleagues. It allows employees to mentally check out from work for a few minutes and to return refreshed.  Fika is also a moment of relaxation, so choose a comfortable seat, a soft light, a calm and relaxed atmosphere. In other words, a cup of coffee taken hastily in the elevator between the coffee machine and your desk is not a fika.

A fika usually includes a hot drink. Coffee is mostly prized but tea is also widespread. In cafés, it is no longer rare today to find chailatte or matchalatte, as to compete with the varieties of coffee.

A complete fika also often includes a pastry. The most traditional ones are kanelbullar (small cinnamon buns) or kardemummabullar (the same cardamom buns), kladdkaka (half-cooked heart chocolate cake, possibly with whipped cream) or morotskaka (carrot cake).

The last rule is that a fika is never taken alone. Whether in a tête-à-tête with a close friend or a even with stranger in order to get to know each other, colleagues, friends or family members, fika is most of all a social moment valuing good company.

Many workplaces even have a fika room – essentially a break room. But a coffee break in Sweden isn’t just coffee in a takeaway cup consumed in front of the computer; it’s a time to step away from work and converse with colleagues.”