They drink the most coffee in the whole world and even melt cheese in it
What do they like to drink most in Finland? No, it’s not vodka. It’s coffee.
For years, the country has topped the charts for the highest coffee consumption per capita in the whole world – about 10-12 kilograms per year.
Coffee is drunk almost 24/7, with or without occasion, and just as Finnish boasts a special word for “drinking alone at home in your underwear” – “kalsarikanni”, there are also separate words for drinking coffee after going to you vote, when Finland wins a medal at a sporting event or even at a funeral.
On average, Finns drink 3, 5 and even 9 cups of coffee a day, all day, every day.
But, as in Scandinavia, filter coffee is revered, often with a drop of milk and no sugar. Espresso is not particularly popular in the country and is mainly made in coffee shops. It entered only in the 90s of the last century.
The country is characterized by the so-called lightly roasted coffee that has a slightly sharp and sour taste. However, the name should not confuse you that it is a light coffee – it has a lot of caffeine and the difference with more roasted coffees is in the taste, but not in the content of the active ingredient of the drink.
Moreover, in Finland, decaffeinated coffee is considered nonsense and, in general, does not exist.
On the other hand, in the northern parts of the country – in Lapland, a typical way to drink coffee, especially when welcoming guests, is with… cheese.
It’s called Kaffeost – pieces of a region-specific cheese called Leipäjuusto are dipped in bitter coffee. It is made from the colostrum of a cow, deer or goat that has just given birth. The cheese is soft, with a flat round shape and slightly baked on the surface. Pieces of it are dipped into the unsweetened coffee, which changes the taste of both ingredients.
When coffee appeared in Finland in the 17th century, it was expensive, only available to the elite, and it was even believed to have medicinal properties. Gradually, the obsession with it covers everyone, and after the end of the First World War, when the country banned alcohol, the drink became even more in demand.
Finns drink the vast majority of their coffee at home or at work – they are a northern people, and the concept of “coffee”, which here means hours of talking in a hot pot, cannot exist. On the contrary – these people are known as one of the most quiet people in the world, and for them drinking coffee in the company of another person in complete silence is completely normal.
Like billions of people around the world, Finns start their day with a cup of coffee.
Unlike most of the others, however, making coffee is also the first thing they do after returning home after work in the afternoon.
At work, they pour a cup upon arrival, and like Sweden, Finland has legally regulated mandatory coffee breaks at the workplace – two 15-minute breaks a day. Unlike in Sweden, where it is called “fika”, here it is “kafe”, or kahvi.
After lunch, another cup of coffee follows, there is also one for the afternoon break, and the next coffee marks the end of the working day. Some even add an evening.
Ritual is an integral part of everyday life, and according to the Helsinki-based Paulig Barista Institue, which trains baristas, there are a number of customs associated with coffee with appropriate names.
In Finnish, there are different words for coffee at different times of the day – morning, afternoon, evening and – while we’re in Finland – sauna coffee.
Education demands that when you go to someone’s home, you are offered coffee. So far – nothing special. But it also requires you not to refuse him, especially if an older person offers coffee.
The coffee will be poured into a small cup, but then topped up until the guest says – “just another half cup”. If you don’t announce that you only want half a glass, they will pour you endlessly.
Coffee in Finland is drunk for all kinds of celebrations and ceremonies. It is considered very strange if there is no coffee at weddings, christenings, funerals and birthdays. Some of these habits have names in Finnish – “läksiäiskahvit” (farewell coffee), “mitalikahvit” (medal coffee – when Finland wins a medal in some traditional sports like cross-country skiing, it goes with cake), “matkakahvi” (coffee for the road).
“Vaalikahvit” (election coffee) is a whole concept – it is drunk with a bun in a cafe or bakery after you have voted in an election. It’s a kind of reward for doing something useful.
There is no complete consensus as to why this obsession of Finns with coffee is due. According to some, the explanation lies in the climate and the northern location of the country – winters are long, cold and with short days, and people simply need coffee to keep them from falling asleep and to warm up.
According to others, it is also a matter of choosing Western over Eastern culture and tradition – Finland was part of Russia until 1917, and tea is drunk there.
As for vodka, statistics show that per capita consumption of alcohol is no more than the average for Europe, even less – 8 liters of alcohol per person per year. They just have a problem with the way they drink it – like coffee if they have that option.