Coffee culture in Finland: a story of togetherness

Cold coffee makes you beautiful Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate hot coffee. But this is Finnish expression so we must take it as is. Finns are the heaviest coffee drinkers in the world with more than 3 cups per day (around 9 cups is still considered totally normal).

But it is not about the coffee consumption stats. It is about how Finns developed their love for coffee. The tough times of Finnish history played a role in making coffee big in the country. Weather too. Still, the Finnish obsession with coffee is rooted somewhere else and this might come as a surprise to you. Hint: the Finns are probably the least talkative people in the world.

How did coffee come to Finland? 

History lesson. No need for taking notes though. Just a sip of your coffee as you read on. Coffee came to Finland in the 17th century, from Sweden and Russia.  At first, it was the beverage of the elite and the rich people. They even considered it a medicine with healing features. By the 18th, coffee spread all around the vast country. In 1919, coffee was brought more in the spotlight as alcohol was totally banned from the country.

During WW II, coffee came extinct and locals turned to substitutes of organic origin (sugar beet, beetroot etc). After the war, coffee came back and Finland can be considered the world capital of coffee, way more than Italy or Spain.

How has coffee been appreciated by reserved Finns as a social thing? 

Stereotype or not, Finns are considered quiet and not very talkative (at all).  This does not mean that they do not like to socialize. It is just that they like to do it in a more silent way. It is not uncommon to get with other people, to enjoy a cup of coffee together. With silence. No need to talk if you are not into it. Silence is gold as they say. Coffee too!

It is also mandatory by law, to have two 10-15 minute coffee breaks at work, every day. On top of the 30 min long lunch break. Hooray! This is work-life balance in action! So, employees gather to take their break at the office kitchen or other common places. Or even at a nearby cafe. There are lots of them in Finland (practically at every corner).  Wait! Are we talking about fika or what?

Is fika same as kahvi?

Kahvi is coffee in Finnish. But the ritual of drinking coffee resembles the Swedish fika a lot. Guess what! The Finns also love to eat a sweet along with coffee. A pula (sweet bun topped with vanilla icing) is the most common choice. And then there are the mandatory coffee breaks and the business meetings at cafes. Well, Finland had been a part of Sweden for so long. No wonder why they share the same rituals.

What are the Finnish social norms about coffee? 

If you like coffee, Finland is your paradise. Whenever you visit someone, for long or short (even unexpectedly), you will be offered a cup of coffee. It is impolite to say no. Most probably it is going to be in a small cup, so don’t worry and accept it. If you are in a cafe most probably you can get a second refill for free. Whatever the place though, think about it twice before you set to leave before everyone has finished his / her coffee. It’s a ritual, remember?

Coffee is drunk on any occasion or celebration. When a baby is born or after a funeral. When you get married or divorced (well, with vodka inside maybe). After a Finn has won a medal in an international championship (or Finland beat Sweden in any sports!).  And since Finland is a strong democracy, there is also the “vaalikahvit”, the “election coffee”that Finns enjoy (along with a sweet) after voting.