It’s a little known fact that the Finns drink more coffee than anyone in the world. Yup, it’s true.
Not even the Italians, the French, the Dutch, and certainly not the Americans (despite their affinity for sugar-free, non-fat, soy/oat/wheat Mochafrappa(baby)ccinos) have the Finns beat. For every Finn of a coffee drinking age, 12 KILOS of coffee are consumed every year.
Is the coffee better up north? Most of southern Europe would say, No way.
Is it because so many days are short and dark that non-stop pick-me-ups are obligatory? Maybe.
Is it because the Finns are also known to drink too much alcohol making for a hairier than usual 5am wake up call on a rainy 25 degree below Zero day? Probably also somewhat true.
Koffie Tijd (Coffee Time!)
For full disclosure, I am American entering my 11th year living in Europe. 18 months were spent in Holland, where I for the first time confronted coffee in a totally new way.
Among the very first things that struck me about Dutch culture was their affection and passion for very simple things like … coffee.
Whenever, and I mean, whenever you ask a Dutch person if he/she might like a cup of coffee, the reaction equivalent in English is an enthusiastic, “Oh yes, very much! Delicious, thank you!!” What’s even funnier is that you get the same reaction if you offer them a refill!
The Dutch remain relatively basic in their coffee preferences — black, often unsugared and with only a bit of milk at best. Always served with a coffee “koekje” (cookie). It would be naked without. An infrequent luxury is a Cappuccino.
Swiss Culture Chocki
When we moved on to Switzerland, the Swiss took the liberty of adding “chocki upstairs” to my Latte Macchiato for the first time.
A chocolate/Cocoa powder sprinkled on top just for that added “Made in Switzerland” touch. Just about everything felt luxurious after Holland!
My Swiss life coincided with having two baby boys back to back in 15 months’ time, so my addiction was regularly nurtured and my mornings wholly supported by my Nespresso machine. I recall nearly every business from banks to tire centers had coffee available and at the ready.
Like Holland, it is considered normal and polite to offer a coffee to people who come to your home to fix something and workday coffee breaks were and still are paid and sacred.
Swiss coffee is generally more rooted in its Italian traditions: deeper, darker espresso roasts reign and filter coffee is well … no.
Pullakahvi At Its Finn-est
Like their consumption, the Finns’ relationship with coffee runs deeper than you might think.
And it’s drip they’re mad for.
Helsinki today is teeming with hip and cozy coffee shops, and coffee breaks are protected by law here, too.
Whatever the reasons, in Finland, the kahvi runs deep.
Most can remember when they had their first taste, or have certain childhood memories associated with warm coffee on a freezing cold day.
No kidding, it’s emotional! Often we hear stories from Chefs about their inspiration for a particular Nordic dish, like some smoky smell that takes them back to the sauna by the Lake they grew up going to with their families.
Kahvi Breaks the Ice
The Finns are not known for being tremendously outgoing.
I read somewhere that Benjamin Andberg, the owner of the Helsinki Coffee Roastery said, “Finns love coffee so much because you can’t drink alcohol all the time.”
It’s like the daytime equivalent to a beer or glass of wine; having a chat over a coffee breaks the ice and opens people up.
Coffee is often paired with a traditional Finnish pulla, a sort of bun or pastry, shared with a friend. In Swedish, the country’s second official language, this pastime is called a “fika.”
Finland is Not for the Decaffeinated.
Decaf just isn’t a thing in Finland. Mercifully, Finnish coffees are brewed on the lighter side, maybe in an effort to accommodate the 10 (TEN!) cups that 6% of Finnish women drink every day!
But life above the Arctic Circle is just a bit harsher.
The climate, the DIY-ness, the Sisu (Finnish for “grit”) required to just dig a little deeper on a daily basis, to persevere and fight the good fight when it’s snowing sideways in October. And for this, a decaf? Nah, not gonna do it!
Gillian is an American now living in Finland, mom to two splendid and active little boys who are enjoying, with their lovely family, an amazing adventure in a new country.
She has been travelling and living in Europe for the past eleven years and she is always eager to explore the cultures she has the luck to get in contact with.
Gillian is a happy, cheerful, positive and brilliant friend who we hope to have around again soon for another good ol’ cuppa together.