When you visit Sweden, you notice many wonderful things: the beautiful landscape, the clean air, the kindness of the people. When you leave, the impression that in Sweden everything is calm and organized stays with you. What is the secret to such calm and stresslessness? I will answer this question with just one word: fika. You got me right. Fika is the secret behind Sweden being the super cool place that it is. Trust me.
So what’s this fika thing? Fika is usually translated – or rather explained – as meeting friends over a cup of coffee and a sweet snack. Unless you are on a diet, the snack is mandatory. Well, even when on a diet you can still choose raw food balls and other sugarfree treats, so no excuses. Having a fika implies coffee and a “sweet”. And a friend. And socializing. And time to devote to this activity.
The Swedes love to take it easy and take their time, and when things are getting too crazy, they know the importance of taking a couple of minutes off and just chill. At school, at work, at meetings – wherever you are, at some point, your Swedish colleagues will stop whatever they were doing and will take a fika break. You will be invited to stop yourself, put that pen down, and join in the coffee break ritual.
You’ll get back to work, rest assured. But coffee first.
The Swedes drink their coffee black and with no sugar. I’ve always been an avdocate of coffee with milk and sugar, that’s how I drink my espresso back in Italy. And that’s how I was drinking coffee in Sweden the first year. Then I gained quite some weight during that first winter and decided I needed to reduce my sugar intake. Determined not to cut off kanelbullar from my diet, I started to take away the sugar from my coffee. Sometimes I will drink it black, but coffee with milk is still my favourite. But since then I have never added any more sugar to it anymore. I’m becoming more and more Swedish.
Kanelbullar, the Swedish cinnamon buns, are the absolute go-to fikabröd. Fikabröd (literally “fika bread”) is anything pastry that will go with coffee at fika break. Sweden has an interesting pastry tradition that I’ve been exploring more and more during my time in Sweden. Some of the key flavours of Swedish baking are butter, cinnamon and cardamom. Sometimes you can find other sweets to go with your coffee, not necessarily baked goods. Another very popular item of the sweet section of any Swedish recipe book is chokladbollar, chocolate pralines in the shape of little balls.
Make your own fikabröd with this Swedish kanelbulle recipe.
Fika is the break. Fika is indulging on the smell of fresh coffee. Fika is the crunch of the pearl sugar that tops your cinnamon bun. Fika is stopping whatever you were doing to enjoy some time off with a friend. Fika is the art of taking a break from the hustle and bustle in order to remind yourself about the good things in life.
Is this why the Swedes are so cool? I’m 99.9% positive this is their secret.