This Is What Happens When You Visit Sweden For The Coffee

Swedish fika

Swedish fika is a break with coffee and pastries

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

Swedish fika

This way to Mörtfors 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.

Swedish fika

Mörtfors Pensionat

 

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.

Swedish fika

The beautifully set dining table

 

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.

Swedish fika

The “Cake Room”

 

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.

Swedish fika

The variety of sweets was mind-boggling!

 

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.

Swedish fika

My scrumptious fika choices: kanelbullar, kladdkaka, småkakor, bärtårta (and cupcake)

Exploring Mörtfors

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.

Swedish fika

My view as I enjoyed my fika

 

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
Swedish fika

View of Mörtfors Pensionat from across the lake.

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.

Swedish fika

View from the nature walk around the lake.

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! 

 

What you need to know about Swedish fika.

Further Exploration:

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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Patti Morrow is the founder and editor of Luggage and Lipstick – a travel blog for baby boomer women adventurers, author of the book Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone, and freelance travel writer with bylines in over 30 publications, including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, International Living Magazine, Travel Girl, CNN iReport, Epicure & Culture, and Ladies Home Journal.  She has traveled throughout most of the USA and around 50 countries and islands abroad, and was recently name by TripAdvisor as one of the “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”

7 Comments

  1. I love it! Not just one but 7 types of fikabröd with your coffee. The place looks so relaxing and peaceful. Love the traditions that are still upheld. Think I should head out to my nearby Ikea to see what they have! I kind of regret not going to TBEX in Sweden last year.

  2. Let me loose in that cake room!!! I can really relate to the idea of the fika, and taking time to just relax and enjoy the coffee (and pastries.) Looks like me and Sweden would get along just fine. 🙂

  3. The word “fika” is actually derived from the “Fikon” language. This language was one of many that was invented by peddlers as a simple way to be able to say things that their customers were not able to understand. What they did was to break the words up in syllables and put the first syllable of fi-kon before the first syllable of the word they did not want the customer to understand (ka-ffe => fi-ka) and then the last syllable of the word before the last syllable of fi-kon (kaffe => ffe-kon). “Kaffe” was thus turned into “fika fekon”. This was konfusing for the uninformed as one word was broken upp into two unintelligible words.

  4. Oh, you have right about my favorite Place….
    Certainly are village beautiful. As a kid I grew up where Bjurstam live.
    Have you not like us fika (coffee) with cakes?
    Hug gun

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