More Than Just a Coffee Break

In Sweden, fika punctuates the day

By Leah Schroeder 

Chocolate Balls slide

cupsFikaTake Time to Fika

Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it. You can do it alone, you can do it with friends. You can do it at home, in a park or at work. But the essential thing is that you do it, that you make time to take a break: That’s what fika is all about.

—From Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall, available for pre-order now at www.betterworldbooks.com

Sweden

Photo by Leah Schroeder.

My family and I were thrilled to find ourselves in Sweden this past summer. Besides fantastic furniture design, beautiful landscapes and friendly natives, during our three weeks in Sweden I discovered a new love of a daily Swedish ritual, fika. In Swedish, fika simply means “to drink coffee,” but it is much more than that.

I have lost track of the many times I experienced fika last summer. I enjoyed fika on a cobblestone street in a bustling city, outside of an ice cream parlor in a sleepy northern town, in an artist’s front yard garden, by the sea in a small southern village, in the sunny kitchen of a good friend, even at a roadside bed and breakfast.

Though all of them were unique, there were a few things that never changed about each of them. There is always coffee or tea served at fika, and it is never in a to-go cup. (I don’t think those insulated paper cups so ubiquitous in the US exist anywhere in Sweden.) You can put a little bit of milk or sugar in your coffee, but don’t look for any cream or half and half because there isn’t any. Also, there will also be some sort of a treat to eat—a kanelbullar (cinnamon roll) or another pastry such as chokladbollar (coconut-covered chocolate oat balls). Or there might be a bit of crusty bread with delicious fresh cheese and a slice of tomato. If it’s hot, maybe some ice cream for the kids.

What never changes is the conversation. Fika is not meant to be taken alone. Rather, fika is an experience best held with friends. It is a chance to take a break, either from a long car ride, a busy day at the office or just a casual day at home. Fika gives you a chance to slow down and enjoy a good conversation while treating yourself to a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.

Left: Vetebullar, cinnamon and cardamom buns, are shared as a coffee break snack in Sweden. Photo by D. Lucas Landis. Right: Photo by Leah Schroeder.

Left: Vetebullar, cinnamon and cardamom buns, are shared as a coffee break snack in Sweden. Photo by D. Lucas Landis. Right: Photo by Leah Schroeder.

Leah Schroeder is an avid gardener, artist and youth advocate who lives in Goshen, Indiana, with her family.
 

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