To understand Swedish culture fully, you’re going to have to drink a lot of coffee. After all, this is a country that drinks a lot more coffee than you can imagine; Certainly much more than the US or the UK, which both rank quite low in coffee consumption.
The love of coffee in Sweden is as old as the history of coffee itself. Thanks to the successful trading businesses of the country, coffee made its way from the middle east to this cold country in the 18th century, and Swedish people fell in love with it instantly.
The concept of Fika lies at the heart of Swedish society. It revolves around coffee; Much like other countries have their own terms for taking a moment to rest from daily life, such as the english coffee break, or the Spanish merienda which means something like a mid-morning or mid-evening snack break, the Swedes have Fika.
Fika is much like a coffee break, but much more social. It involves getting together with a group of people to have coffee -the traditional standard calls for strong, black drip coffee- and eat snacks, which are usually sweet to counter the bitterness of the coffee.
It is an opportunity for bonding with new people and strengthening bonds with people close to you and, obviously, to drink coffee. Coffee has become, over the centuries, an ice-breaker, a way to connect with the people you love, and a way to keep your hands warm and your eyes open during the long, cold winter of Northern Europe.
Surprisingly for a country that drinks so much coffee, there aren’t many Starbucks operating here. This is probably because Starbucks is far from being a good match with the long-standing tradition of Fika. Instead, you can find many cafés in Sweden that serve very strong coffee along with food that is much more fitting for Fika - everything from pies to cinnamon buns and even sandwiches for the odd one who doesn’t eat sweet things with their coffee.
But don’t be fooled. Swedes are not exclusive with their black coffee. The warm winds coming from southern europe -most specifically France and Italy- have brought with them the love for espresso, and espresso-based drinks.
Nowadays there is a substantial demand for popular drinks such as Cappuccinos and Lattes - although Frappes are usually out of the question. Who wants to drink iced coffee with those freezing temperatures?
The Coffee Experiment
Legend has it that during the 18th century -when coffee rose to popularity in Sweden- there was one person who was vehemently against this drink, seeing it as foreign and possibly harmful for one’s health.
Besides issuing a decree against coffee and tea consumption, making it more expensive and therefore harder to consume coffee, the King wanted to prove to everybody that he was right… By doing an experiment.
The experiment involved two prisoners; twin brothers, nonetheless. They had been sentenced to life each. The experiment consisted of ordering each of these twins to drink three pots of each beverage every day, for the rest of their lives. One would drink nothing but coffee, the other would be drinking tea.
The reason for this experiment being so legendary is that, in a twist of events, both twins outlived everyone who was in charge of the study. The doctors in charge of the study died -presumably of natural causes- and the King was assassinated in 1792.
It is said that the twins died of old age, over 80 years old (which was quite a feat at the time), with the one who drank coffee living a few years longer than his tea-drinking brother.
A Swedish tradition: Egg coffee
Now, every country has their trademark drink - or at least a curious ingredient that, seen through a different cultural lens, can seem rather unappealing to most. Some drink coffee with salt, others spice their coffee with spices like ginger and cardamom - and others, like in Norway, use olive oil to give their coffee a special touch.
But no other country has such a uniquely strange combination of ingredients such as egg and coffee. Yes, it sounds disgusting, but we promise it is a delicious drink.
Before casting any judgement, however, you should try this coffee drink for yourself - we’ll teach you how to make it.
- 8 cups of water
- Half cup (or more, depending on your taste) coarse grind coffee
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup of cold water
How to make egg coffee:
- In a saucepan, bring your 8 cups of water to a boil.
- While you wait for the water to boil, get a bowl and mix coffee grounds with the raw egg. Some people leave the eggshells, too; It gives the coffee a very distinctive flavor. It’s gonna be filtered anyway, so don’t worry.
- Turn down the heat once the water is boiling and pour the coffee and egg mix into the hot water. Once it’s all there, turn the heat up again and let the mix boil for 2 to 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat source and pour one cup of cold water over the mix (this is to help loose coffee settle and float down).
- Let sit for 5 or 10 minutes; the longer it sits, the stronger the brew.
- Pour into a decanter or coffee pot using a sieve or a paper filter to prevent any grounds or egg shells from sneaking into your drink.
Now you’re ready to serve and enjoy a truly unique type of coffee.
The origin of this drink is rather contended; Some say that it is a drink born in America, but by the hands of Swedish immigrants, who brought with them the love for coffee. Some Swedes claim that the drink is 100% Swedish, and a tradition that should not be claimed by anyone who isn’t a national.
Either way, this coffee drink is surprisingly delicious, and a very strange (yet fun) type of coffee for you to make whenever you feel like you want to drink something out of the ordinary.
Vietnam’s own egg coffee
Vietnam, compared to Sweden, doesn’t drink nearly as much coffee. And yet, the country produces almost half of all coffee consumed worldwide and has a coffee tradition and a blossoming coffee culture. In recent years, a lot of of Vietnamese coffee drinks have been gaining popularity all over the world.
One of these popular beverages is, interestingly enough, an “egg coffee”. The existence of these two types of coffee is probably the reason why you have to say Swedish egg coffee and not just egg coffee.
Although they’re both egg coffees, the Vietnam version is quite different.
The story goes that during a period of war, a barista at a famous hotel found himself with a shortage of milk, which is a vital drink for preparing all sorts of drinks. So he had to make do with whatever he had on hand. But what ingredient could replace the creaminess of milk?
Eventually, he landed on eggs. But not just eggs: the yolk, especifically. This is because the egg yolk is the creamiest part of the egg and the part that has the most flavor. It has an umami flavor that really adds a lot of value to this ingredient.
So, instead of milk, egg yolks are added. They can be pasteurized later. A lot of egg coffee recipes also have condensed milk in them. The explanation is that while fresh milk was unavailable at the time, canned, condensed milk was in fact available. Only enough to sweeten the drink is used, however.
Nowadays, Vietnamese egg coffee enjoys a lot of popularity all over the world. Because of the booming coffee culture in Vietnam, this drink has overshadowed its Swedish counterpart.
But no matter how you see it, both drinks are geats of ingenuity and offer a unique, delicious flavor that make them a must-try for all coffee lovers.