September 29th is National Coffee Day and October 4th is Cinnamon Bun Day, or Kanelbullens dag, an annual celebration in Sweden. So it is a perfect week for Fika (pronounced fee-ka).
Fika is a Swedish custom, a kind of social coffee break where people gather to have a cup of coffee or tea and something sweet. It has been said that the word fika was derived from the 19th-century slang word for coffee: kaffi. Invert the word kaffi, and you get fika.
Fika is such an important part of life in Sweden that it is not only a noun but also a verb. Swedes will say to each other, “Let’s go and fika” or “You and I fika together so well.”
While Fika is often translated as “a coffee and cake break,” that is only kind of correct, because it is much more than that. Swedes prefer not to translate the word fika. They don’t want it to lose significance and become a mere coffee break. It is one of the first words you will learn when visiting Sweden, right after tack (thank you) and hej (hello).
These guys think fika could bring about world peace:
Fika is a concept, an attitude or state of mind. It is an important part of Swedish culture. Making time for fika every day is considered essential to many Swedes. It is a time for friends and coworkers to share a cup of coffee (or tea or even some other beverage) and a little something to eat, preferably something sweet (like the cinnamon buns (kanelbullar) from the Swedish Crown Bakery that will be available for purchase this Saturday, October 5th, from 1-3). But it doesn’t have to be a sweet, it can be crackers or other breads.
Let’s be clear – drinking coffee at your desk with a donut is not fika. Fika is more of an event – a daily event. Swedes consider it important to make time to pause and socialize. It refreshes your brain and strengthens relationships. Plus fika makes good business sense: companies that have adapted fika as part of their culture are more productive. Even the Volvo plant stops for fika.
Bullar (buns) are perhaps the quintessential component to a Swedish fika, and vete in Swedish means “wheat.” Vetebullar is therefore the general term for wheat-based dough that can be turned into any number of bun creations. Kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) and kardemummabullar (cardamom buns) are common variations on this type of bun, and while the traditional “roll” form is common, there are twisted varieties as well. You can find a great Vetebullar recipe in Fika – The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones & Johanna Kindvall and they have given us permission to share it with you. You can find it here.
Typically they are baked and served in paper liners. Kanelbullar are such an iconic pastry that an entire day in Sweden is devoted to them (October 4, for those considering celebrating). This recipe has both filling varieties, and once you’ve mastered the dough, you can start experimenting with your own fillings. If a Swede knows one thing, it’s this: no matter what the variation, bullar are always best fresh out of the oven, and make for a wonderful smelling kitchen!
Fika is nothing revolutionary for Swedes; it’s simply part of everyday life. Talk to any Swede who has moved abroad, or anyone who has visited Sweden for an extended period of time, and you’ll hear about how wonderful fika is and how we should be doing more of it. Fika isn’t just a coffee break; it’s a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life.
As it says in Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break:
“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.
One thing that distinguishes the Swedish fika break — and the reason people fall in love with it — from the United States coffee-consuming traditions is that fika is about slowing down. For us often coffee is about grabbing a 16-ounce-grande-double-something-or-other with whatever, in a paper cup to go – it is more about fueling up and going fast. Fika is intended as a true break, a moment to sit and contemplate either on your own or gathering with friends and colleagues. In Sweden coffee is something to look forward to, a moment where everything else stops and you savor the moment. In today’s modern world isn’t that something we crave – an excuse to slow down.
Fika is incorporated into everyday Swedish life in many different ways. At any Swedish office, there is always a fika break, both in the morning and in the afternoon. Fika is an excuse for friends to meet up at a cafe and spend some time together. If you take a train somewhere, you pack a thermos of coffee and a baked good, and if you don’t have time, you can be sure that there is a fika special — a cup of coffee and a sweet bun — on board in the dining car. Fika isn’t just a coffee break, it’s a lifestyle, and one that we could all probably use a little more of in our lives.
Ingebretsen’s is proud to carry Biking Viking Coffee, blends made just for us by Peace Coffee, a local company with wonderful fair-trade ethics and bicycle delivery, just for us! Its terrific taste and medium roast smoothness is sure to be enjoyed by all good Vikings. You can choose from Ground or Whole Bean. When you are in our store this is usually some of this fine coffee available for our customers to enjoy.
Fika seems so simple but apparently it is more complex. A group from Sweden made six videos about fika. This is the first one and it will provide you with a link to the others: