In a previous post, I neglected to mention one of the most charming things I discovered about coffee in Sweden, the tradition of fika. Fika is an afternoon coffee break, often with sweets and baked goods. It’s similar to English tea time, but does not have such a formalized background. In fact “fika” can mean a break of any kind, or even a little date. But usually the term refers to a break in the afternoon for refreshment, the chief form of which is coffee.
In fact, the word fika comes from reversing the order of the syllables in kaffi (coffee). According to wikipedia: ‘The word is an example of the back slang used in the 19th century, in which syllables of a word were reversed, deriving fika from kaffi, an earlier variant of the Swedish word kaffe (“coffee”). From fika also comes the word fik (a colloquial term for “café”) through a process of back-formation.’
A gentleman I met in Stockholm told me that comes from the days when coffee was still considered déclassé, a drink for the rabble. People would refer to coffee time as “fika” to avoid arousing suspicion. A simple code for a simple tradition. Now everyone in Sweden enjoys fika, and kaffi at their fika.
Thanks to my friend Suzanne, who helped remind me of this little morsel during our own Seattle-style fika yesterday afternoon.
The speeches that were given at the Nordic Barista Cup in Oslo, on the other side of the fat part of Scandinavia, are available on their website. I encourage you to listen to all three, by Stephen Vick, George Howell, and Erling Dokk Holm. Scroll down past the Harry Potter pictures to find links to the audio.
I will have something specific to say about George Howell’s talk in my next post.