Fika (the culture) meets FIKA (the shop)October 8, 2015
You can grab a coffee. Or you can “fika,” the daily afternoon break for Swedes that many Americans are realizing might not be a bad custom for us to adopt here.
A classic Swedish “fika” is the simple tradition of taking a coffee break in the afternoon, and typically there’s a sweet treat involved. Fika is the opposite of grab-and-go, with a focus on quality beans, a break from work and simple conversation.
“Fika is a very important part of the Swedish culture and way of life, essentially because it brings people together,” said Lena Khoury, director of strategy and communications at FIKA, a chain of high-end coffee shops in New York City inspired by Swedish tradition and a coffee-centric lifestyle.
“The social aspect of the fika is often equally as important as the coffee and treats one enjoys,” Khoury explained. “Proposing a fika is how you interact with your friends and co-workers, how you catch up and spend quality time with your family or even how you ask someone out on a date in Sweden.”
FIKA (the shop) stays true to its Swedish heritage through unique recipes and menu items not found in the corner coffee spot: cardamom buns, desserts and a Swedish classic, the princess cake.
“Being that the social and restful aspect of the tradition is so important, we also pay close attention to designing our spaces so that they create a very inviting and welcoming atmosphere for our guests, taking into account the kind of music we play, the furniture we offer and the art on the walls,” Khoury said. “It should be a complete and fulfilling experience.”
New Yorker William Su recently visited the FIKA location on Pearl Street and appreciated its “good beans brewed with less hurry and more respect.” The experience reminded him of his trip to Iceland last year.
Fika – the verb – “is much more than just taking a cup of coffee,” says Mattias Johannson, who was born and raised in Sweden and recently visited New York City and a FIKA shop. “It’s a way of taking a break, socializing with your coworkers and friends and also having a pastry.” He also describes Swedish coffee as more brew-style and less espresso-style.
Johannson found the design at FIKA to be “very Scandinavian.”
“Perhaps also the fact that a picture of the Swedish royal family was on the wall made it a bit more Swedish for me,” he jokes. “Not that all cafés in Sweden have a picture of the royal family.”