The Swedish social tradition of fika is one that I can definitely get behind. Both a verb and a noun, it’s the concept of taking a coffee break in the middle of the day. Everyone does it and it happens every day – it’s a regular break in the workday for almost all Swedish workplaces as everyone stops work for a cup of coffee and a sweet treat like a cinnamon roll. I wish we had that kind of a tradition in Australia!
Fika isn’t just for workers though – students, stay-at-home parents, and retirees all ‘fika’ at the many coffeehouses dotted around Stockholm. One day, K and I joined them (albeit a little after the usual fika hour) at Chokladkoppen, a cafe located right in the heart of Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm.
It’s a cosy little cafe off the main square – dimly but warmly lighted and very very hygge (cosy) in the Danish sense. At 4pm in the afternoon, the cafe was mainly populated with females in their 20s and 30s, catching up for a cup of hot chocolate or coffee before doing a spot of Christmas shopping at the markets outside in the square. There were also a number of tourists in the cafe, looking for somewhere cosy to warm up before heading back out into the Scandinavian winter!
Looking around, I could see that the hot chocolate was the drink of choice for many people in the cafe, despite the statistic that the average Swede drinks three cups of coffee a day. I imagine the coffee-drinkers all head next door to KaffeKoppen, Chokladkoppen’s sister cafe! I ordered a hot chocolate for myself, and K decided to try something a bit different with a small white hot chocolate instead. I think I made the better choice – my hot chocolate was creamy and rich without being too sticky and sweet, but K’s white hot chocolate was much too sugary and sweet for my liking.
The kanelbulle (cinnamon roll) is believed to have originated in Sweden back in the day, though it’s obviously now a favourite with many people around the world. I ordered one myself and interestingly, it came out with a tiny wedge of orange on top. I still can’t tell whether you’re supposed to squeeze a burst of citrus over the kanelbulle or not – I chose not to, but still enjoyed my hit of sweetly spiced doughy goodness. My only qualm is that it would be that much better if the cafe had heated up the bun for just half a minute before serving it – hot baked goods is always better than lukewarm baked goods!
K opted for a dessert that would make the most of Sweden’s ample abundance of wild berries in their forests – blueberries in particular. Chokladkoppen’s blueberry pie was more like a blueberry tart, with a thick buttery pie base, sweet jam-like filling, augmented by fragrant vanilla cream on the side. Not the pie I was expecting, but delicious in its own right. By the way, did you know that it’s not uncommon for people to drive into the forest and go berry-picking for a day? Whatever they pick from the wild is then frozen for the months ahead and used in jams, pies, smoothies, and more.
Fika is a Swedish tradition that everyone must try – even if you never visit Stockholm once in your life, at least bring the philosophy of a daily break into your routine at home! If you are lucky enough to visit Stockholm though, drop into Chokladkoppen for a cup of hot chocolate and a kanelbulle, and enjoy a taste of Swedish fika in a cosy little cafe.
Chokladkoppen is located at 18 Stortorget in Gamla Stan, Stockholm.