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FOOD + DRINK

Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break

Illustrated recipes and explanations of the Scandinavian country's rich, complex coffee culture

by Hans Aschim
on 25 March 2015
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Sweden consistently ranks near the top in coffee consumption per capita and that's largely thanks to (along with long hours of darkness in the winter) the fika: a once or twice-daily coffee break with a snack that's something of a cultural institution. Originally a slang word devised from reordering the syllables of "kaffe" the fika is a daily ritual observed in all workplaces in some capacity. Some offices even have a dedicated room for fika time—sensibly named the "fikarum." Operating as both a noun and a verb, the finer points of the fika are sometimes lost on outsiders—until now. Writer Anna Brones and illustrator Johanna Kindvall compiled the history and practice of the fika along with a collection of recipes for Swedish baked goods in their release "Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break."

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Over 168 pages, Brones and Kindvall give a conversational, illustrated guide to all things fika. The handsome hardcover starts with a brief but fascinating history of coffee in Sweden. It was actually one king's attempt to ban coffee that gave rise to its mass popularity. King Gustav III considered coffee to have negative health effects and was afraid of public coffeehouses (and the conversation they inspired) giving rise to anti-monarch attitudes. As the ban went into effect, Swedes couldn't get enough and coffee situated itself in Swedish culture. Originally a rather formal affair (complete with matching cup and saucer), the modern fika is experienced in a wider spectrum—from a stop by the neighborhood konditori (bakery) to a fika on the trail during a hike.

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For those looking to bring fika vibes to their lives, the book is a wealth of Swedish recipes and cooking tips. Swedish classics like kanelbullar (cinnamon buns spiced with cardamom) and hasselnötsflarn (simple cookies best dipped in a fresh cup of coffee) are easily explained and aided by Kindvall's upbeat illustrations. The visual component of the recipes especially comes in handy for more elaborate specialties like lussekatter (saffron buns). Beyond the classic sweet-baked goods associated with fika, the book gives recipes for savory smörgåsbords, jams, drinks and more contemporary recipes like the ultra-rich chokladbollar (chocolate balls that are, admittedly, mostly butter).

While the coffee and bites are essential to a fika, Brones and Kindvall insist the most important part is taking time out of your day to catch up with friends, take a breather and enjoy the simple pleasure of a nice cup of coffee with a snack. Pick up "Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break" from Amazon for $14.

Images by Cool Hunting

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