BLOG //
Jori Korhonen //
Helsinki
// 16.9.2018

Finnish coffee culture is one-of-a-kind

It comes as a surprise for many that Finnish people consume the most coffee in the world per capita with our 10 kg consumption per person yearly. Though, Finland isn’t known for its coffee culture even thought it is deeply rooted into our culture. Let’s see what Finnish coffee culture is like.

chemex in a snow
Lovely weather to have a cup of coffee!

What, how and when do Finns drink coffee?

Finns are quite odd people compared to other nationalities when it comes to what kind of roasts we prefer as 80% of coffee consumed in Finland is (really) light roasted. Only in the past 10 years Finns have started to get accustomed to darker roasts. Most of the coffee is brewed with a drip/filter coffee machine such as Moccamaster. Espresso is still quite new thing for us and it is mostly consumed in cafés. For example my grandparents haven’t even heard about espresso or cappuccino, yet along tasted one and for them “kahvi” (coffee in Finnish) means light roasted filter coffee. 

Almost all of the coffee consumed in Finland is being consumed at home or at work. A Finn starts the day with a cup of filter coffee and for most people the first thing when they get back home from work is to brew a cup of afternoon coffee. Also of course you start your workday with a cup of coffee. It's typical that the corridors of a workplace are stained by coffee spills because everyone walks around with a cup in their hand. Also did you know that Finland is the only country in the world where it is stated in some collective labor agreement that there should be two 15 minute COFFEE breaks in a workday?

If you are visiting Helsinki, check at least these cafés in Helsinki!
Interested in making good coffee - read my tips!

coldbrew hario
Pour over Finnish style :)

Days are divided by coffee breaks

A Finn’s day is heavily divided and sectioned by coffee breaks. One starts their workday with a cup of coffee, another cup after lunch, then a coffee break with colleagues in the afternoon and after workday we switch to free time with a cup of coffee. The elderly people might even have a cup in the evening to have a good night sleep. Yep, I know that doesn’t make any sense. There are even in Finnish language such words as "aamukahvi" (morning coffee), "päiväkahvi" (day coffee), "iltakahvi" (evening coffee) and of course "saunakahvi" (sauna coffee).

coffee cup
Typical view of a Finn

Social rules of drinking coffee

Silence is something really Finnish and I’ve heard from many tourists that it is the best thing when visiting Finland. I think the most unique thing about Finland is that you can be socially silent. You can have a coffee break with a colleague or a friend together but yet still be totally silent when enjoying your cup of coffee. 

If you invite someone to your home in Finland, it is a custom that you have to offer them coffee. It might be rude to refuse someone’s offer, especially if it is from an older person. Don’t mind the small cup because you will be offered “santsikuppi” (another round of coffee) and you don’t want to refuse that either but you need to state “Ehkäpä vain puoli kuppia” (maybe just a half a cup). If you take another full cup, you will be offered more coffee as long as you will just take the half cup. Also in some more traditional families, the hostess isn’t allowed to drink coffee before the guest doesn't want more of those full cups.

Coffee is being drank in all sorts of celebrations and ceremonies. It is really odd if coffee isn’t served at a wedding, a christening, a funeral or a birthday party. There are also many other occasions when it is customary to have a cup of coffee and of course these occasions have their own names in Finnish language: "läksiäiskahvit" (farewell coffee), "mitalikahvit" (medal coffee, when a Finn has won a medal in some sports), "matkakahvi" (travelling coffee). A concept of its own is called "vaalikahvit" (election coffee) which means that after you have voted in some election (parliamentary, presidential etc.), you go to a café for a cup of coffee and a bun. The coffee and bun are kind of reward for a good job, in this case for voting in an election.

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"Kuksa" is the one and only outdoors coffee cup

Your own Moomin cup

Every Finn has their own favourite coffee cup for which coffee tastes the best. For me it is my flat, white and blue coloured cup which I have at home. For many people it is these Moomin cups which are sold everywhere in Finland. Moomin cups are also collected and some more rare ones can be sold for over 200 euros per piece. For example I just sold one of mine for 150 euros. Finns also have a different kind of cup for drinking coffee outdoors called "kuksa". Kuksa is only used when camping or hiking in the woods. Some might say that the right way to brew coffee outdoors is pot coffee but let’s not get into that discussion

grandmother holy cups
My girlfriend's grandmother's "holy cups"

Some elderly people might also have different cups for different situations. The favourite cup is for weekly use but different and a bit fancier cups are used when guests are served coffee. The ordinary or weekly cup is a bit bigger and doesn't have a saucer underneath it but the fancier ones certainly do. For example my grandmother has three sets of cups for different situations; the ordinary set is a big and green cup, one set that is used when frequent guests are visiting (for example me) and then the ultimate fancy set which is only used in special occasions like in her 90th birthday three months ago. Again, these fancier cups have their own name as they are called "pyhäkupit" (holy cups).

As a summary - this is what Finnish coffee culture is all about:

  • Light roasted filter coffee
  • Coffee 24/7 or at least 12/7 :)
  • Social silence by a cup of coffee
  • Unspoken "rules" around coffee
  • There's always a good reason to have a cup of coffee
  • Coffee cup is sacret