Grabbing a quick cup at the beginning of the day is one way to take your coffee. Or you can savor your brew several times over the course of 24 hours, as is done in Sweden. We certainly subscribe to the idea of wanting to slow down and enjoy a quiet moment (or three) over a warm cup of coffee. In an excerpt from his forthcoming The Nordic Cookbook (Phaidon), a look at the rich cultures and cuisines of the Nordic region, Swedish master chef Magnus Nilsson tells us how it’s done:
“The word fika simply means a break for a snack in between meals; most often it includes coffee and sometimes a fika can mean only a cup of coffee. It is a Swedish institution and something that goes on in every Swedish home and in every Swedish workplace. It is a cherished time to spend with friends, colleagues or just on your own.
The typical fika would be a cup of coffee, possibly with milk for those who are into that, served with a sweet cookie, cake or bun on the side. It can also be an open-faced sandwich served with coffee, almost like a light lunch. Fika is typically done quite a few times during a normal day and is probably one of the reasons why Swedes, just after the Finns and just before Danes, are at the very top of the world’s coffee consumption per capita, in 2014 beaten only by the Dutch.
To have this many meals per day might seem odd today but historically, the further north you lived in the world, the more you had to produce during summer and the time of light to keep you alive in winter. A sixteen-hour day of manual labour was nothing particularly unusual in summer. With passing time and inventions like industrial food production evening out the access to food around the year, and electrical light evening out the difference between day and night, our need for that much food in parts of the year has diminished. [Still], my family, coming from the north, would not think of not having kvällsfika before ending the day.”