By Patti Morrow, Epicure & Culture Contributor
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from – or how you feel… There’s always peace in a strong cup of coffee.” ― Gabriel Bá, Daytripper
Coffee in the United States has become somewhat of a pop culture. Get in line, order the most complicated, tongue-twisting combination of caffeine on the menu, and drink it from the paper cup in your car on your way to wherever it is you’re going
In Sweden, it’s just the opposite. The coffee break, called fika, is actually an opportunity to unwind, socialize and refresh.
Which one sounds more appealing to you?
Origin Of Fika
The word “fika” (pronounced fee-ka) derives from the Swedish word kaffe, as a type of back slang originating in the 19th century where syllables of a word were reversed, (fika from kaffi).
Fika is both a noun and a verb. You can drink fika (coffee) or you can fika at work (coffee break).
While many other cultures have coffee breaks, the Swedes don’t consider it a dash for caffeine. Instead it’s considered a social institution, and even has roots in law. In fact, employees are entitled to a five-minute break every hour, accrued into 15 minute fika breaks. It’s a chance to rejuvenate around a mug of the steaming beverage and fikabröd (fika bread), a sweet pastry like a cinnamon roll. It’s not a time to check email, but to discuss personal interests.
Fika is also used in the Scandinavian dating process. One can invite a person of interest to fika without the pressure of a formal date, with each person paying for their own treats. It’s an informal way to have a conversation to see if there is a mutual attraction.
The tradition of fika is also practiced in other Scandinavian countries, and is starting to spread around world. After partaking in it myself, I’m hopeful to take it back to my home in the USA, as well.Have you tried Swedish #fika? Here's how it benefits your #health AND #tastebuds! Click To Tweet
Partaking At The Pensionat
Our car veers onto an old wooden bridge, taking us off the main street of Mörtfors Village and onto a dirt road. A simple sign at the crossroad reads “Mörtfors Pensionat.” With a shimmering blue lake on the left, our destination comes into view. The Pensionat guest house with its picturesque setting preserves the character of the last century.
The Pensionat was built in 1910 by Karl-Axel Bjurstam, known as “the King of Mörtfors.” Karl also ran the local furniture factory, soft drink enterprise and the flour-mill, until he turned Mörtfors Pensionat into a peaceful retreat. The guest house serves fresh organic meat from the surrounding woods and flour from the mill on the nearby falls. The property’s strawberry and raspberry plants still supply fruit for baking the pastries.
Climbing the stairs past the veranda, I enter the main reception where staff offer a warm greeting before leading me to the back of the house. The bright and cheery dining room has windows on three sides, and is set as if for a Victorian tea party. Think fine porcelain, white table cloth, candles and bright pink flowers in the centerpiece.
Then there’s another room. Here the focal point is impossible to mistake. Heaped on the table are baked goods of every variety, tantalizing the eyes and summoning the nose to dig in.
The Tradition Of The Seven Cakes
When hosting a fika, Swedish etiquette dictates that seven types of fikabröd (cakes, cookies, or pastries) are served with the coffee. Why seven? Through the ages, the number seven has been associated with magic or good fortune, especially in the bible and in mythology.
A 1945 cookbook called Sju Sorters Kakor (Seven Kinds of Cookies) is still one of the best-selling books in the country, with over 3.4 million copies sold. There are no specific seven, but here are a few of the more popular selections.
The bulle, or sweet bun, is the king of fika. The varieties include buttery, cardamom, pistachio-filled and saffron, though none is more popular than the kanelbullar, or cinnamon bun.
Kladdkaka, a sticky chocolate cake; småkakor, small cookies; and bärtårta, berry tart. are also likely to be seen on the fika serving trays.
As I sit in my chair at the elegantly set table, my eyes are drawn to the windows directly across the room. The view of the lake, framed by the Victorian windows and brick-a-brac below the sill, beckon me to explore.
Which I do — after finishing every bite and drop of my fika, of course. Too many nibbles means I have to unfasten the button of my pants before wandering the authentic little village, but it’s worth it. With a slight sweetness still on my smiling lips I stroll through still-blooming flowers laced with streams for salmon fishing and canoeing.The most delicious part of #Swedish culture might be the #fika. Here's why. #travel Click To Tweet
Exploring Mörtfors Village
Mörtfors is a village characterized by creativity and artists. The most famous artist is Emil Karlsson, whose early 1900’s photographs of the life and nature of Mörtfors serves as a documentary of the village.
Every July, Mörtfors hosts Mörtforsdagen – a festival with a market, bazaar and duck race, featuring a wild boar grilled in the center of the bazaar.
The village has a trail that circles the impossibly blue lake. I stroll along the nature walk with my companions, sun shining high in the sky, without encountering another living soul.
Surely Mörtfors must be Sweden’s best-kept secret. And if you like coffee, you can pair your steaming cup with Victorian architecture, lush nature and delicious tradition.
Farewell (For Now) To Fika
Fika isn’t just a break, it’s a lifestyle, a chance to stop and smell the roses. Or, as the case may be, the coffee.
Have you tried Swedish fika? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
How To Make Princess Cake Like A Swede [Blog Inspiration]
Scandinavian Comfort Food: Embracing the Art of Hygge [Great Reads]
Clever Travel Companion Pickpocket-Proof Garments [Travel Safety]
Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Visit Sweden during her stay in Sweden, but as always, the opinions, reviews and experiences are her own.
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