Swedish fika – a cup of Johan

Recently, Swedish coffee roastery Gevalia launched a major ad campaign in US, featuring Johan – who wants to fika.

The actor is definitely not Swedish, as he has quite a clear German accent, and the ad has the typical American perspective of Swedes as overtly sexually liberated. But it is fun,  and in the words of Agent Cooper from the tv-series Twin Peaks, Gevalia do make a damn fine cup of coffee. Gevalia is also one of the favourite coffee brands in Sweden, one of the biggest coffee consuming countries per capita in the world!

Classic Swedish fika - arraksboll, wienerbröd och kaffe

So what about the word ‘fika’? It is, like the ad suggests, a traditional Swedish coffee break. A cup of coffee (or tea, or juice), often accompanied with something sweet (biscuits/cookies, cinnamon buns, or even a small sandwich).

Old-fashioned fika - "sju sorters kakor"

Wikipedia suggests that ‘fika’ is a social institution in Sweden, and I can only agree. We often take time out during our working days to fika, some (but not all) workplaces have a fika break in the morning (usually around 10-10.30 am) and another one in the afternoon (around 3 pm). After work, Swedish fika is the way to catch up with friends in town.

Fika can be a verb (vill du fika imorgon?), a noun to describe the situation (ska vi ta en fika?) and a noun to describe the place (jag vet ett trevligt fik i stan). Fika is backslang for kaffe (or kaffi back in the days: ka-ffi -> fi-ka = fika).

Outdoor fika

Here are some typical things to eat and drink when having a Swedish fika, in a café:

  • Drycker – varma: kaffe, latte, espresso, cappucino, chai latte, varm choklad
  • Drycker – kalla: läsk, juice, iste, islatte, smoothie, saft
  • Sött: kanelbullar, muffin, chokladbollar/arraksbollar, dammsugare, tårtbit, morotskaka, kladdkaka, paj (äppel/blåbär/rabarber/hallon)
  • Smörgåsar: ost, skinka, brie & salami, kycklingröra, tonfiskröra, skagenröra, hummusröra
  • Sallader: Halloumi, ost & skinka, grekisk

You may also find jacket potatoes, maybe some lasagna, maybe some more pies, and perhaps some pancakes. When having a fika at home, many people just stick to a hot or cold drink, and something sweet (bullar or kakor).

How do you like your fika? What are your favourite biscuits/cookies/cakes to go with your coffee?

6 thoughts on “Swedish fika – a cup of Johan

  1. We drink tea actually, but often with that kladdkaka and visp grädde. Perhaps before that scones or bread with butter, cheese and ham. I love fika!

  2. The word “fika” (pronounced “fee-kah”) actually means “booger” in Hungarian. Gevalia would really have to work on coming up with a diffent commercial to market themselves in Hungary. (Just like Chevi, whose Tahoe means literally “redneck”.) The coffee is great though!

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