Six Things to Know About Nordic Coffee Culture

The Nordic countries dominate a few lists – gender equality, happiness, and (unfortunately) cost of living as an expat. Another list they dominate is in annual coffee consumption – the Nordics love their coffee! Finland usually tops this list, followed by Sweden and Norway, with Denmark falling in the top 10. A ranking from 2013 can be found here.

In honour of this accomplishment, here are seven interesting thing to know about Nordic coffee culture.

1. NORDIC COFFEE IS TAKING OVER THE WORLD (SORTA)

Coffee houses which celebrate Nordic coffee culture have been popping up all over the world in the last year. In New York City’s Brooklyn, there is Oslo Coffee Roasters, a Scandinavian-style espresso bar as well as Budin, a Nordic coffee house featuring roasts from all over the region. In Tokyo, in a country of tea drinkers traditionally, you have Fuglen coffee house, a branch of the Oslo coffee shop with the same name. Meanwhile in London, Nordic Bakery is serving up Scandinavian coffee and baked goods in multiple locations around the city. Of course, these are only a few examples of Scandinavian coffee shops popping up around the world, but if New York, London, and Tokyo already approve, who will be next?

 2. COFFEE WAS ONCE BANNED IN MANY SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES

While the Finns hold the number one spot in coffee consumption today, in the 19th century coffee was banned in Finland. This was due to suspicions that coffee had a negative effect on economy, fertility, and work productivity. King Gustav III also banned coffee and all coffee paraphernalia in Sweden in 1746, even ordering convicted murderers to drink it to see how long it would take to kill them.

3. STARBUCKS HAS A LOT OF COMPETITION

Scandinavia’s first Starbucks branch opened at the Copenhagen airport in 2007 and recently opened up a new branch here in the city at the central train station. It won’t be easy to win over the Danes; the popular American chain will have to face some stiff local competition from chains and independent stores alike. Additionally, Starbucks locations in Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki top the charts for being the world’s most expensive. Lykke till, Starbucks!

4. YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE FINDING DECAF

Decaffeinated coffee isn’t a popular part of Nordic coffee culture, so many coffee shops won’t even have it as an option. According to Nordic baristas, the demand is just too low, meaning Scandinavians like their caffeine! Coffee in Scandinavia is also generally a bit stronger than in North America, which can take some getting used to.

5. IT CAN SEEM OBSESSIVE TO OUTSIDERS

In his review of Steig Larsson’s third book, David Kamp of the New York Timesobserved: “Larsson’s is a dark, nearly humorless world, where everyone works fervidly into the night and swills tons of coffee; hardly a page goes by without someone ‘switching on the coffee machine,’ ordering ‘coffee and a sandwich’ or responding affirmatively to the offer ‘Coffee?’”

Scandinavians were quick to correct Kamp; he just doesn’t understand the Nordic coffee culture of consuming large amounts of coffee and as often as possible. There was nothing abnormal about Larsson and his world.

“…hardly a page goes by without someone ‘switching on the coffee machine,’ ordering ‘coffee and a sandwich’ or responding affirmatively to the offer ‘Coffee?’”

6. THE NORWEGIANS CREATED A BARISTA COMPETITION

It was the Norwegians who created the format for the World Barista Championships, first held in 2000 in Monaco. Nordic baristas dominated the early winnings of this competition, although now the Australians and Americans are starting to catch up.