It isn’t just a coffee break, it’s a lifestyle

Fresh from a coffee-filled trip to Stockholm, I’ve decided to consciously make fika a part of my lifestyle. Fika(pronounced fee-ka) is a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning ‘to have coffee’, often in a very relaxed atmosphere, accompanied with light pastries or their iconic kardemummabulle (a sweet bun laced with cardamom). Although the concept is a lot deeper than that. It is about taking time to slow down, connecting with the people around you, and appreciating the little things in life.

And for me, fika in Stockholm was defined by filter coffee and cardamom buns (sometimes filled with raspberry custard, blueberry cream or apple vanilla, too) at Vete-katten, an iconic bakery near Stockholm’s central train station. On another day, fika was some rye flour chocolate sea salt cookies, drip coffee and a paper map spread on my table to plan my next stops exploring the aesthetically pleasing city of Stockholm.

Anytime, any place

I was very intrigued on learning that a Swede can fika (the word is also used as a verb) multiple times a day and it need not be in a coffee shop but can take place at home, at work or in the park.

To learn a bit more in preparation for my trip, I got myself Fika: The Art of The Swedish Coffee Break by Anna Brones and Johann Kindvall. In this book, the authors explain how in Sweden, fika is incorporated into everyday life in many different ways.

At any Swedish office, they have fika breaks both in the morning and in the afternoon. Fika is an excuse for friends to meet up at a café and spend some time together. Even if you take a train somewhere, you pack a thermos of coffee and something baked. Fika isn’t just a coffee break, it’s a lifestyle, and one that we could all probably use a little more of in our lives, the authors urge.

Along with notes on culture and their fika-filled childhoods, Brones and Kindvall share recipes that allow us to indulge in the Swedish tradition in any part of the world. The best part is that you can just about bake anything to have with your coffee—the important part is pulling yourself away from your desk to enjoy it.

While looking online for more book recommendations, I got absorbed into browsing the books on Scandinavian lifestyle and and ended up getting myself a book titled The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well with the hope of emulating the Danes in their art of living with cosy lights and and comfy blankets. It is now queued on my audio book player for when I need to listen in to something instead of simply playing the radio.

Now, back home with sacks of heritage grain flour—oat, spelt and fine rye—in my hand baggage, and filled with Scandinavian inspiration, I dusted off my copy of The Great Scandinavian Baking Book and thumbed through it, bookmarking recipes for all my future fika afternoons: walnut and cinnamon cookies, bark cookies, tigerkaka. Who’s dropping in for fika?