It may come as a surprise to you to find the country that consumes the most amount of coffee per year (per capita) isn’t America, France or even Italy, but Finland! The Finnish are passionate about coffee and for each person that there is in Finland, an impressive 12kg of coffee is consumed each year – that’s over twice the average of most other European countries!
Therefore, it goes without saying that coffee is a big deal in Finland, so much so that it serving coffee is considered one of the most important acts of hospitality and not serving coffee to a guest is taken as an insult.
So where did this love of coffee come from? And how do the Finnish drink their coffee?
Starting the Trend
Time for a bit of a history lesson… Finland is one of the most Northern countries in the world – and one of the coldest! The cold climate is the complete opposite to the conditions needed to grow coffee, so it’s quite interesting that it’s so popular. Coffee made its way to Finland in the early parts of the 1700’s, many people loved it straight away, calling it a medicine and claiming that coffee could cure headaches, depression and even went as far as saying coffee would overcome heart disease, because of this coffee was only sold in Pharmacies. Coffee wasn’t an instant hit with many other people though, and many were treated coffee with suspicion.
As with many things, drinking coffee was first taken up because of the social image and status that it provided. The first coffee drinkers were the upper classes, who drank coffee to keep up with the latest European social trends. By the time we’d moved into the 18th century, the price of coffee had come down, was more accessible and served every day of the week (you could only get coffee during holidays at first!) and people were drinking coffee three times a day.
Finland and Coffee Today
The people of Finland loved coffee and always wanted more of it, but due to high taxation and restrictions during the second World War, the movement of coffee across Europe was limited, once those were lifted Finland started to fill their metaphorical boots and in the 1970’s became the world’s largest coffee consumer.
Working in Finland sounds like our kind of thing… Did you know that it’s a statutory requirement for workers to be given a coffee break?! No other country has this law in place. Pretty sweet! Coffee gives people energy and boosts their mood, so employers prioritise coffee and make sure that their employees get the time to drink it.
A report from Nordic Coffee Culture found that 6% of Finnish women and 14% of men drink more than 10 (yes, ten) cups of coffee per day. That’s a huge amount of coffee! The average consumption of coffee, although isn’t 10, is still pretty hight too; 4-5 cups per day. We can see now why they’re the largest coffee consumer in the world.
Preparation and Consumption
If you’re a decaf drinker, Finland probably isn’t the best place for you to visit. Decaffeinated coffee is pretty hard to come by with many coffee shops and supermarkets not stocking decaffeinated coffee. This is put down to a lack of demand, we know that the Finnish like their caffeine, so suppliers don’t bother offering a decaf alternative. Fair enough.
In the central and southern regions of Europe, coffee is roasted to be dark and rich, but in Finland they do things slightly differently. Finnish coffee is purposely roasted to be light, so much so that it is actually the lightest in the world, this is because the quality of the water in Finland is so good that it actually enhances the flavour of the coffee. The only other place that you’ll find coffee as light is in Northern Sweden, but regular medium and dark roasted coffee is still available in most shops in Finland.
Traditionally, (with the exception of lattes) Finnish coffee is always served in a mug or a cup, unlike many other countries where coffee is served in a glass. Coffee is always served at formal occasions too and is highly prioritised when hosting guests – most families in Finland will have a special coffee set for guests and occasions.
However, with the influence of Globalisation, the younger generation of Finnish coffee drinkers are starting to drink different flavour speciality coffees and coffee isn’t just consumed within the home or at work. Cafés are now becoming popular meet-up places for younger people, and you can often see people drinking coffee from take-away mugs and taking their coffee into lectures with them, which has boosted the influence of coffee in Finland even more.