Coffee Time!

So, let’s talk about something that we’ve been doing around here since nearly the pandemic started – Coffee Time.

No, I’m not talking about pouring yourself a lonely cup of coffee in the morning (or afternoon, or late afternoon, or evening) and chugging it down so you can get through your workday. I’m also not talking about getting in the drive-thru line at Starbucks for a caffeine fix, or even sipping a leisurely to-go cup by yourself on a park bench.

While these are all certainly ways to drink and perhaps enjoy (although I use that verb quite loosely for the first two examples above) a cup of coffee, these routines are not Coffee Time. What we (as in, husband and I) have been doing as much as possible, is setting aside a small part of our workday to brew a cup (or few cups) of good coffee or espresso, plate a treat or snack or two, and sit by the light of our dining room window, enjoying each other’s company.

We try to do this in the late afternoon, when we’ve still got a few hours between the end of the workday and dinner, but need a break and something simple to look forward to.

If you’re Swedish, or of Swedish or Scandinavian descent, you’re probably nodding your head along with this concept, and have likely been doing or witnessing Coffee Time since you can remember. The term for the ritual is fika, one of those beautifully not-quite-translatable Swedish words that can be described in English as “shared coffee and cake time,” but embodies the entire activity and mindset that goes along with fika.

I am not Swedish, nor is my husband. We discovered the magic of Coffee Time while browsing the recipes in one of my favorite cookbooks, The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas. In it is an entire chapter dedicated to “Breads for Coffee Time,” in addition to several pastry and cookie recipes that the author describes as “necessary for the coffee table.” I thought for a while that she was simply referring to breads one would eat with their morning or afternoon coffee (like breakfast or a snack), but the more I thought about it, and did a little research, the more I realized that someone wouldn’t dedicate a huge chunk of their book to “stuff one eats with hot beverages.”

I confess, I didn’t even learn the actual term for it until yesterday.

A friend of ours said to us, “Swedish people take their fika very seriously.” And as husband and I have discovered, as we were increasingly at home with leftover pastries and/or more time to brew good coffee and bake fun things, as well as harboring more stress from work and the wider world, we’re starting to take fika pretty seriously, too.

So what, exactly, is fika? Fika is a sacred time set aside each day to stop working, brew a good cup (or six or seven, if you’re truly Swedish) of actual coffee, and enjoy a plate of cookies, cakes, treats, or really whatever small things you want to eat. Fika must be shared with other people, and can last anywhere from a short half-hour break, to an hours-long socializing affair. There’s no such thing as lone-wolf fika, no matter how much you enjoy drinking coffee by yourself.

Fika, more importantly than the beverages and eats, is about slowing down in every part of the ritual. I say “actual coffee” above, because getting a to-go coffee, or brewing a single-serve coffee cup, or mixing instant coffee into hot water, is not fika. Do yourself a favor and get some good coffee, preferably whole-bean and fair-trade – the taste difference is astounding, and grinding beans builds character.

Same thing with the treats: fika isn’t about opening a bag of Oreos and washing them down with Starbucks. Your treats should, ideally, be homemade, either by you or a friend, or made by a cool local baker or treat-maker, so you can slow down and enjoy the whole process of prepping and eating and drinking and sitting with someone.

Now, you can take a few liberties with fika. Even though the translation includes coffee, you can absolutely brew yourself a nice cup or pot of good tea instead. And while apparently some practicers of fika have seven (!) cakes or treats to enjoy with their coffee (and I fully intend to have Absurdly Amazing Seven-Cake Fika someday in the future), one or two items is just fine for those of us without personal chefs and/or gobs of extra cake-baking time. What’s important, again, is the slowing down, and the enjoyment of company and tastiness.

It’d be amiss if I didn’t give you some suggestions for what to prepare and eat for your own fika, or Coffee Time. We’ve enjoyed many, if not all, of the following items with our Coffee Time ritual:

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bake some cookies, as Coffee Time awaits us this afternoon. I hope you’ll slow down and join us in some fika, as well. Skol!

Does your family celebrate a ritual like fika? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below to tell us something cool.

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