WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM
It is pronounced [ˈfiːˌka] and works both as a noun and a verb - a concept in Swedish culture stemming from the basic meaning of having coffee accompanied by baked goods, but its ambiguous definition allows for various interpretations and without any strict rules of conduct, fika nowadays is so much more than just having a coffee, it's a social phenomenon and a legitimate reason to set aside a moment for some quality time.
The word is said to originate from a form of back slang used in the 19th century in which syllables of a word were reversed, thus deriving fika from the earlier variant of the Swedish word for coffee, which arrived in Sweden in the late 17th century and became very fashionable by the turn of the 18th century. In 1746 King Gustav III issued a royal edict against coffee and tea due to "the misuse and excesses of tea and coffee drinking" and levied heavy taxes on consumption and failure to pay these taxes would result in fines and confiscation of cups and dishes. Between 1794 and 1820 the government imposed several bans on coffee but its consumption continued to rise and rumour has it that during the bans Swedes continued their coffee drinking secretly out in the woods.
During the 1900’s it became customary for women to gather for kafferep (loosely meaning afternoon coffee gatherings). According to Swedish etiquette, a good hostess should serve seven kinds of biscuits with the coffee during the kafferep - apparently six was cheap whilst serving eight was considered vulgar. The recipe book from 1945 called “Sju Sorters Kakor” (Seven Sorts of Biscuits) based on this concept is still one of the best-selling books in Sweden to date. And whilst there is an abundance of sweet treats to go with your fika, the classic kanelbulle (the cinnamon bun) still reigns supreme - so much so that Sweden’s Home Baking Council have declared October the 4th Kanelbullens Dag (the Day of The Cinnamon Bun).
Most importantly, fika is about slowing down. It represents a break, a moment to sit and contemplate on your own or together with friends and colleagues - a very zen aspect of Swedish culture and something we could all use a little more of in this so called modern life. After all fika manages to encompass all that is mindful and sweet treats, something to treasure in the everyday.