It’s well known I am a bit of a cake fiend; I come from a nation of tea drinkers, I have a very sweet tooth and never confine my tea and cake consumption just to the afternoon. The Swedish tradition of Fika, therefore, is right up my street! Fika is the Swedish equivalent of Afternoon or High Tea. More than just a ‘Diet Coke’ break, it is a ritual that is to be enjoyed with friends, away from work and at least once a day. Fika involves consuming a beverage of tea, coffee or lemonade accompanied by a sweet treat, usually a big cinnamon bun. Traditionally the coffee would have been served with 7 different freshly baked cookies, as the ingredients were expensive the larger variety of cookies you served the wealthier you appeared to guests. Nowadays the Swedish are well known for their healthy and active lifestyles so they would most likely supplement the calorific cakes and cookies for a piece of fruit. In the name of research I stuck to sampling the more traditional versions of Fika during my visit to the Skåne region of Sweden, I’m very thorough when it comes to these things!
Fika can be taken at any time of day and in any setting. In Skåne there were beautiful settings aplenty. My first experience was in a greenhouse in the gardens of Malmö castle. A spread of cinnamon buns, carrot cake, chocolate brownies and tea and coffee had been laid out amongst the greenery and it is probably one of the prettiest and most serene places I have ever taken tea. I had just completed the mammoth shopping spree mentioned in the last post and was relieved to rest my feet, refuel on sugar and listen to the gentle patter of a light rain shower against the greenhouse roof.
In a typically Swedish cafe in Mossbystrand I was treated to a veritable Fika buffet. As if gorging on 3 types of cake in my first Fika experience wasn’t enough, we stopped in a cafe on the way to Ystad to find a display of more cinnamon buns PLUS cornflake biscuits, coconut cakes and lots and lots of cookies. The buns were fresh out of the oven, still warm and slightly gooey inside. I dreamt of my local bakers being able to produce exact replicas. They never could, however, for the Fika experience is about much more than the buns – it’s the setting and the service that make it taste so good. Metres from the coast this cafe was in a cottage Hansel and Gretel would be proud to live in. The interior decor taking inspiration from the shoreline outside; all distressed wood, blue and white stripes and a most inviting chimney stack. The owner spoke little English but did her best to explain her baking and the ingredients of the magnificent home-brewed fruit tea she served. A quaint shop out the back sold more tea, in flavours I have never before heard of – Sunset Boulevard tea anyone? If driving along the coast to Ystad, Mossbystrand is a charming place to stop for a Fika treat.
In Molle I met another Swedish sweet treat – chocolate balls. Chocolate balls are, unsurprisingly, balls of chocolate and they are scrumptscious! The sun had come out for our rest in the harbour at Molle so we sat outside a waterside cafe, enjoyed yet more Fika, and felt not the least bit guilty of the calories we were consuming as we had cycled through the national park of Kullahalvön to get there.
At the train station, as we prepared to head back to Copenhagen airport at the end of our Skåne trip, I caught sight of a woman munching on a cinnamon bun from a paper bag. I wondered if I had room in my belly for one more before leaving. I realised my addiction was getting a little out of hand and had a little word with myself. “Don’t worry, you can come back for more,” is what I said in my head!
London residents you can experience Fika too!
Visit Sweden are hosting a Pop Up Fika Parlour and walk in Fika Picnic on the 24-26 August at Soho Square in London. See the website for more details. You can reserve a table by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or just pop down on the day.