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It's Fika Time

The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break and how to host your own

Forget Abba, Nordic Noir, LEGO and The Moomins*. Sophie Farrah explores the lesser-known Scandinavian concept of fika, the art of the Swedish coffee break and how you can host your very own.



There is something wonderfully calming about Scandinavian culture. The clean healthy food, the abundance of nature, beautiful landscapes, simple, timeless design…IKEA. OK maybe not IKEA, but you know what I mean.

Recently, I have learnt about another comforting component of Scandinavia that is becoming more and more popular in the UK. It is called ‘fika’ (fee-ka), which basically means ‘to have coffee’, usually served with a sweet treat on the side, such as a pastry or a sandwich. Now don’t get me wrong – I adore coffee and I love sweet treats, but I don’t really understand how this seemingly ordinary activity is considered ‘a thing’.

This was going to take further exploration and I was probably going to have to eat some pastries, as research of course, and then find a Swedish person to talk to about this mysterious Swedish concept.  

Cue Sandra Linnea West - a Swedish woman who along with her British husband runs a Nordic lifestyle store in Putney called Blåbär; serving as both beautiful shop and welcoming café, it is a little bubble of Scandi chic in South West London.

Blaabaer

We really wanted to bring a little part of Scandinvia here’ Sandra explains. ‘It’s a combination of my husband’s design skills, and Swedish food and culture from my side’

I immediately ask her what on earth fika is. She laughs in a calm, Scandinavian way. The Scandinvian lifestyle is very different to the British lifestyle...’ she muses.

Yes, fika means having a coffee with something sweet, but to me it encompasses much more of the Scandinavian lifestyle. It’s about finding the right balance between family and friends and work, and taking time out to slow down, and appreciate what you have’6X7A7909

A bit like mindfulness, or meditation, but without having to join a class.

‘It’s actually scheduled into the working day in Sweden! 20 minutes fika in the morning, and then the same in the afternoon, just to sit and talk to colleagues. After work you would then always go and meet a friend or family for a fika. I suppose the English equivalent would be a pint in the pub!’ 

Pub, fika, both sound good to me; in a busy and chaotic world it is so important to stop and spend time with people that you love (and eat cake, too). Fika is a simple yet effective tool for actually making that time happen; a precious tradition, which brings people together and provokes thought, appreciation and maybe some calm in a hectic world. And with that in mind, here are TOAST.LIFE’s tips for planning your own fika….


What you’ll need

The beauty of fika lies in its simplicity, so you only need a few things in place to get started. Invite a friend or a small group over to your home or your favourite coffee shop. Alternatively, you could fully embrace this Swedish social institution and plan a regular weekly fika with someone in your life that you feel you don’t see enough of.

Caffeine

Few people drink more coffee than the Swedes. Leave the Nescafé instant in the cupboard and dust off your cafetiere; make a big pot and take your time over it. At Blåbär Sandra serves an organic coffee, which is of course roasted in Stockholm by Johan & Nyström. Any good quality coffee will float your fika, but if you want to be true to its Scandinavian roots then Gevalia is the most popular Nordic coffee brand, and probably the easiest to get hold of in the UK which you can buy at Ocado.

Sweet Treats

You can serve any nibbles that you like at your fika, but if you want to be authentic then cinnamon buns, also know as Kanelbullar, are a must. This recipe from the ScandiKitchen is delicious. Not only do they taste good but they will make your home smell incredible, and oh so welcoming.

Sandra says: ‘We bake them in-house during the day, so people can smell them from down the street. They all end up coming into the shop!’ laughs Sandra.

Cinnamon Buns1

Another tasty Swedish sweet treat is Kladdkaka – a sticky Swedish chocolate cake. We love this recipe from Waitrose - perfect with a cup of coffee. 

Nordic noms

If you would prefer to go down the savoury route then why not take some inspiration from Blåbär’s authentically mouth-watering menu; open-top sandwiches using a single slice of rye or sourdough fly out of the door every day. Toppings include gravad lax (raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill), Skagen (cold water prawns) and the obligatory Swedish meatballs with beetroot.

‘The quality of topping is key’ Sandra tells me. ‘Our cured salmon is from Norway and it’s gorgeous, we make our own beetroot and apple salad to go with the meatballs. The Danish bread is great too’

Savoury Fika

So now my mouth is watering and I am now craving a cinnamon bun like nothing else and the great thing is that the Scandi Kitchen - is an online Swedish grocery store which delivers all over the UK. Perfect.

Setting the scene

You’ll be pleased to hear that there is no need to rush out and buy loads of new Scandi chic furniture in order to create a fantastic fika.

"Scandinavia is known for the simplicity of its design’ explains Sandra. "You want to use lots of natural materials; glass and wood particularly. There’s something very basic about it, very genuine. It’s not about bigger and better, it’s just about appreciating what you have.’

There are some fabulous Scandi coffee pots out there that will sit elegantly on your coffee table and provider a better, smoother cup of coffee. We love the Theo slow brew coffee maker, forget the quick and bitter coffee machines of today. If you really want to host the perfect fika, this is one of the best ways to make one.  Designed by Francis Cayouette, it is made of matt black stoneware with a shiny glaze inside, and priced at £49.75 it's perfectly stylish and simple looking. 

Theo Brew

Serve in these gorgeous deisgner coffee cups from Anna Viktoria, in simple designs of Reindeer, Moose and Dalahorse, at £8.99 each. We also love these Royal Copenhagen fluted contrast mugs designed by H.C. Geed for Royal Copenhagen, the perfect fusion between the aesthetic and the functional that will add a little colour and style. The silicone protects your hand while the porcelain lip conveys a satisfying drinking experience at £17.00 each.

Fika Mugs

Alternatively, we love this ceramic coffee set by Luca Nichetto and Mjölk the set includes three cups, a pot, filter and a tray made from Canadian maple wood. Much more of an investment but a truly inspiring set for entertaining.

Luca Nichetto Sucabaruca Designboom01

Serve your buns or sandwich smorgasbord on chopping boards made from wood, we like the Nester and Nomad Roland serving board £25.00, a beautifully chic small board just enough for a cup of coffee and a bun!

Roland

We also love these beautifully chic lace napkins made from a combination of lace and cotton, perfect for an informal fika!

Napkin

All that's left is to pop some fresh flowers or a pot of herbs on the table, light a candle and voila!

Have a fantastic fika!

TOAST TIP

Why not try a digital detox? The whole idea behind fika is to take time out to be with each other and escape the pressures of everyday life, so phones, computers and all other digital distractions should be switched off!

*You don’t really have to forget The Moomins - they are a bit cute.

 

Posted in Inspire Me

by Sophie Farrah
on on 08 August 2016

  fika

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