Many Australians claim to be coffee aficionados (or snobs – depending on who you ask). In Sydney and
Melbourne, we tend to be spoilt for choice with suburban coffee shops dominating the green and gold landscape. It’s very common to have your favourite café, where the purchase of your first Aeropress is considered a rite of passage by many. Enjoying a flat white or long black is a treat open to all mainly because it is quite affordable at roughly 23SEK a cup.
Although I was always exposed to it, I only really began to drink it during my final year of high school when the pressure was on to get those grades for university. Once university began, I would catch up with my friends over cups of coffee. It is therefore safe to say that I grew up around coffee and that my love (or dependence) on it grew as time went on.
During my bachelor’s degree I spent a semester abroad in Denmark. There, I came to quickly realize that purchasing coffee from a store was not a habit I could maintain as it was really expensive, and I was on a strict student budget! I learnt to fall in love with homebrewed filter coffee quite quickly. However, when I got back to Australia, I had a barista-made coffee relapse. Based on this experience and my silly preconception that all Nordic countries operated identically, I kicked my coffee habit two weeks before I left Australia to study at Chalmers. I found this super difficult as I was so accustomed to drinking it especially when I felt my energy levels drop. This is when I turned to coffee’s cousin, tea, for support. It was not an easy road and it did take some time to adjust but at least I was prepared this time round!
Upon arriving in Gothenburg to study at Chalmers, I realised that the café culture was as pervasive as it was back home in Australia. It turns out that Sweden is in fact one of the largest consumers of coffee in the world. This should not have come as a surprise as I was somewhat aware of Sweden’s fika culture before I arrived. Fika is defined by sitting down with a coffee and a pastry of some delicious description where you’re able to take timeout to enjoy catching up with friends or colleagues or just about anyone. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly the point in time when fika culture became “cultural”. Nevertheless, Swedes have been enjoying their coffee on and off for the past 400 years despite historical bans on the addictive beverage. Today, I am able to confidently say that fika is a fabulous (legal) pastime and one that I have enjoyed heaps of times typically with a kanelbulle in hand!
Other than the Swedes’ love for fika, I suppose one reason for coffee consumption being as high as it is can be placed down to the fact that it is quite affordable when compared to Sweden’s Nordic counterparts. If you look past the larger coffee chains, many smaller cafes allow you to get a refill or påtår where workplaces also tend to offer coffee in abundance. Bringing this back to Chalmers and during the long Winters which are riddled with assignments and exams, I have found myself consuming much more than I usually do. At 12SEK a piece for a cup of joe (or rather Bryggkaffe) on campus, I have not only been able to get through my exams, but I have also been able to enjoy the tradition of fika with my classmates!