The coffee culture in Finland

The coffee culture in Finland

A surprising fact about Finland is that they drink more coffee per capita than anywhere else in the word. I»m not convinced they have acquired this accolade because they drink more cups of coffee in a day but because the coffee they drink is so strong that you could hang wallpaper with it! However, the Finns have a very long established coffee tradition which started at the beginning of the 18th century when it first arrived in Scandinavia. It had become so popular by 1767 that the government tried to make this «unhealthy luxury drink» illegal. But those with money were able to buy it on the black market and eventually the government of the day gave up.

Savoury or Sweet?

From Maria M., a Finn: «One of the most difficult things to explain to foreigners is the difference between savoury foods (eaten first) and sweet foods (eaten usually with coffee, after savoury foods). We»ve had some American friends who have thought of pulla as bread, put butter on it and tried to eat it with the main course. This is utterly wrong; pulla is sweet and therefore should be eaten with coffee.»

By the 19th century, the coffee habit had spread throughout the countryside. The wealthiest amongst the population drank it daily but villages would use it just for their public celebrations and holidays. Ordinary families soon wanted to have coffee for themselves and so began the Sunday ritual of having coffee after church. Unfortunately, coffee was so expensive that other ingredients like rye, barley, beans, peas, dandelion roots, acorns, and chicory were mixed with it to lessen the price. But when times were hard and the harvests had been bad, coffee was the luxury that was given up.

By the 20th century, coffee was being consumed three times a day and was established as the national drink. All kinds of coffee cultures arose and people began to drink it with sugar and cream. Then they began to buy coffee beans raw and roast them at home in a special pan called a rannali. This way, each family produced its own distinct blend of coffee depending on what other ingredients they had mixed with the beans. Coffee was in such short supply during World War II that when the container ship The Herakles arrived from Brazil with the first consignment of 35 tons of coffee in 1946, the day almost became a national flag day. There is a sweet bread called pulla that is traditionally eaten with coffee. It contains lots of cinnamon and cardoman. In the old days, the pulla was baked as a large circular bun with a scooped hole in the middle. When the pulla was served, the center would be filled with all sorts of cookies and biscuits (traditionally seven varieties).