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Enjoy a Finnish Tradition - Coffee Break with Pulla

Updated on August 11, 2014

Discover the Coffee Culture and Traditions of Finland

The people of Finland, the Finns, lead the world in the greatest amount of coffee consumption per capita or per person. Finns consume over 12 kilograms of coffee (12.26) or 27.0 lbs of coffee yearly. The average Finn drinks 4 to 5 cups of coffee a day as Kahvi juomana.

Coffee is an integral part of the Finnish culture and customs, both in everyday consumption as part of a coffee break, fika or kaffeepause and also for special occasions like weddings.

My own coffee consumption has been influenced by having a Mother from Finland. I grew up experiencing many of the Finnish coffee traditions including that of drinking coffee black. After researching my Finnish coffee roots, I now understand my preference for basic black coffee.

As I sit here writing this lens, drinking black coffee out of my own Taika (Magic) Mug, I am wishing I had some fresh Finnish pulla (Cardamom bread) to go along with the coffee for a truly Finnish experience. Maybe I'll fix some Finn Crips with healthy toppings, or I might just have to settle for some of the Fazer chocolates that we have.

Coffee Consumption Statistics from International Coffee Organization Monthly Coffee Market Report for June 2012.

Blue Taika Coffee Mug with Pulla by storebukkebruse. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Try Some Juhla Mokka

Available on Amazon
Available on Amazon

Finnish Juhla Mokka Coffee available on Amazon

Image by andersc77
Image by andersc77

What is a Finnish Coffee Break?

Coffee is so much of the Nordic culture that people in Finland and Sweden are guaranteed coffee breaks while at work or at school, as coffee breaks being included in labor agreements.* These designated coffee breaks can make it difficult to find people at 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, when they are having their coffee breaks.

Bloggers for the Nordic Coffee Culture define a Fika as

  • A light, spontaneous meal or break consisting of one or more cups of coffee accompanied by something sweet, or perhaps even a typical savoury open-faced sandwich.
Fika foods are both savory sandwiches and sweet treats. Swedish sweets may include äppelkaka (apple cake) and kanelbulle (cinnamon roll). Finnish foods usually include baked sweets like pulla (sweet cardamom bread) or a korvapuusti pastry (cinnamon roll). Foods can also include cookies, biscuits and candy, making it popular with children and probably why they made such an impression on me when I visited Finland as a child.

A Fika is a social coffee break that one enjoys with colleagues, friends or family. The occasion can be informal during the work day, as a casual date with just friends or as an important part of weddings and funeral celebrations.

* Workers are allowed a single coffee break for a workday longer than four hours and two breaks for a workday longer than six hours.

For more about Fika's read "For the Love of Fika's" by the Nordic Coffee Culture or some of the other articles on Finnish Coffee Traditions.

Fika, coffee pause by andersc77. Used under a Creative Commons License

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Finnish Coffee (Kahvi)

Image by Uncle Leo
Image by Uncle Leo

What is it about Finnish Coffee?

Finnish coffee is a much lighter roasted coffee than what is typically found in other countries including the U.S and Southern and Central Europe.

According to Taija Ojaniemi, who wrote the paper Coffee As a Finnish Institution, Finnish coffee is known to be the lightest roasted coffee in the world. With a lighter roast and the Finnish water, Finnish coffee has the distinctive flavorful taste with more acidity than darker roasts.

The preference for lighter roasting may date back to the pre-war days, when coffee was not as available. A lighter roasting of the coffee beans yields a great amount of coffee, so lighter roasting was advantageous. The Paulig has been roasting coffee for Finland since 1876.

One has to wonder if Starbuck's latest Blonde Coffees are in some way patterned after Finnish Coffee.

Read more of Ojaniemi's paper on Coffee As a Finnish Institution

Old Finnish Coffee (Kahvia) Jars in Suomenlinna, Helsinki by Leo-setä. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Finnish Coffee from Amazon

Paulig has been making coffee for Finland since 1876. The Finnish coffee is a much lighter roast than many traditional coffees one finds in the U.S.

Paulig Juhla Mokka Coffee 500g Bag Imported From Finland
Paulig Juhla Mokka Coffee 500g Bag Imported From Finland

Juhla Mokka is a favorite Finnish coffee, originally released as Juhlasekoitus or Jubilee Blend in 1929. It is a lighter roast made from South, Central and African beans.

 
Paulig Juhla Mokka Coffee 500g Bag 3 Pack Imported From Finland
Paulig Juhla Mokka Coffee 500g Bag 3 Pack Imported From Finland

Three pack of Paulig Juhla Mokka Finnish Coffee.

 
Paulig Presidentti Coffee Imported from Finland
Paulig Presidentti Coffee Imported from Finland

Imported ground Presidentti coffee is another coffee lightly roasted in Finland from the best coffee beans in the world. This brand has been made since 1929.

 

Finnish Coffee on eBay

You can also find Finnish Coffee on eBay.

Coffee Pots and Makers on Amazon

Several different methods for brewing up your own Finnish coffee from press coffee makers to drip makers.

The bloggers at the Nordic Coffee Culture Blog offer their tips for brewing better Nordic coffee, which is making sure to have 60-70 grams of coffee per liter of water. This works out to 1/2 to 2/3 cup of coffee to 4 1/4 cups.


Chemex 6-Cup Classic Series Glass Coffee Maker
Chemex 6-Cup Classic Series Glass Coffee Maker

The Chemex drip coffee carafe allows you to slowly brew coffee without the bitter taste. This method is considered to be one of the purest methods of brewing coffee and has been used for more than 40 years.

 
Stelton EM Press Coffee Maker, 8 cups, red
Stelton EM Press Coffee Maker, 8 cups, red

A press coffee maker with a vacuum jug lets you make the coffee and keep it warm in the same jug.

 
Iittala Teema 1-quart Teapot, White
Iittala Teema 1-quart Teapot, White

The Iittala Teema Pot from Finland is a classic way of serving brewed coffee at the table. This pot is safe to use in the Microwave.

 

Fika = Having coffee and food with friends

Fika with friends

Image by Dana K
Image by Dana K

This is how I remember the outdoor coffee breaks at my Grandmother's house in Finland.

Friends and family sitting around talking, drinking coffee and eating.

Fika with Friends by Dana K . Used under a Creative Commons License

Finnish Pulla

(Coffee Cake)

Image by Melanger Baking
Image by Melanger Baking

What is Pulla?

Pulla is a slightly sweet cardamom flavored Finnish yeast bread. It is known also known as nisu or as bulle or kanelbulle in Sweden. Pulla is frequently served with coffee for the Finnish coffee break, either as sliced bread (pitko) or a whole rolls.

As a yeast based recipe, baking Pulla is something that takes several hours as you wait for the yeast to rise and as you shape the dough into braided loaves (pitko), rings, mini knots or cinnamon roll-like korvapuusti pastries.

Pull can be made plain or with filled with raisins, sliced almonds, sugar and cinnamon especially for the cinnamon roll versions. Before baking the pulla is brushed with egg whites to give it a shiny appearance once done.

The smell of baking pulla is still one of my fondest Christmas memories, one that I will teach to my girls now they are old enough to help with the baking. Even though the process of baking takes several hours, it is definitely worth the time and effort and one that will be appreciated by the family, even if it isn't appreciated by your waistline.

The base recipe is similar to other yeast breads like the Hispanic Pan de Muerto, bread made for Day of the Dead or Jewish Challah made for different occasions. The main differences are in the extra spices, with pulla it is cardamom, with Pan de Muerto it is anise seed and orange zest.

Until I have a chance to get my Mom's Pulla recipe up, try the recipe for this Finnish Cardamon bread on the Melanger blog.

Finnish Cardamom Bread by Melanger Baking. Used under a Creative Commons License

Pulla (Finnish Sweet Bread) on YouTube

Watch to see how Emilie of thecookingTree bakes Pulla, a cardamon flavored Finnish Sweet Bread.

Can you smell this freshly baked Finnish Pulla Bread?

Image by Quasilaur
Image by Quasilaur

Freshly baked Finnish Pulla by Quasilaur. Used under a Creative Commons License

Finnish Pulla Nisu Bread on YouTube

Hancockmi shows how to make Finnish Pulla Nisu Bread or coffee tablel breads in a series of YouTube videos.

Pulla's Secret Ingredient - Cardamom on Amazon

Ground Cardamom is the secret spice ingredient in Finnish Pulla.

Spicy World Green Cardamom Pods, 3.5 Ounce
Spicy World Green Cardamom Pods, 3.5 Ounce

Grind your own fresh cardamom from the pods.

 
Norpro 693 White Marble Mortar and Pestle
Norpro 693 White Marble Mortar and Pestle

Good for grinding up small batches of herbs or spices.

Measures: 3.5 x 3.8 x 3.8 inches

 

Pulla Recipes

These are other recipes for Finnish cardamon bread, which can also be made into buns and other fun shapes.

Finnish Fika Food

Image by Miss Yasmina
Image by Miss Yasmina

Finnish Coffee Break Foods

There are many favorite foods that Finns like to eat with their coffee while on daily coffee breaks or for more formal social coffee breaks like would be found at a wedding or funeral.

Fika foods are both savory and sweet. The savory from open faced sandwiches made with rye bread and fish; the sweet from baked goods, cookies and candies.

Open faced sandwiches on rye crackers (Finn Crisp or Wasa whole grain) are a staple in my noon-time meal. In addition to Swiss cheese and cucumbers or sliced green apples, I like to add avocado, which reflects my California roots. I also add in some parsley on my open face sandwiches as a reminder of my Grandmother, who put parsley on everything.

The Scandinavian recipes that my Mom makes seem to have just the right amount of sweetness, not overly sweet the way that most American sweets are. Swedish sweets may include äppelkaka (apple cake) and kanelbulle (cinnamon roll). Finnish sweets include pulla (sweet cardamom bread) or a korvapuusti pastry (cinnamon roll).

One thing that I really miss about Finnish Food is the ability to get great baked Finnish Sourdough Rye Bread. After writing this lens and finding a Finnish Sourdough Rye Bread recipe that shows you how to get a bread starter from Finn Crisp, I am going to give it a try. It is delicious and very filling.

Finnish Rye Bread by Miss Yasmina. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Foods to Serve for a Finnish Coffee Break

Here are just some of the foods that one might find served as part of a Finnish coffee break:

  1. Coffee
  2. Pulla (coffee bread) or Korvapuusti pastry (cinnamon roll)
  3. Pannukakku (Oven Pancakes)
  4. Rye bread
  5. Finnish or Swedish crispy rye crackers
  6. Herring or Salmon
  7. Sliced cucumbers, apples, tomatoes
  8. Lingonberry or Cloudberry jam
  9. Sliced hard boiled eggs
  10. Cheese (the Finns make excellent Swiss cheese)
  11. Cookies and biscuits
  12. Candies (often the Finnish Fazer Brand)

Finnish Flatbread with Toppings

Image by Ewan Munro
Image by Ewan Munro

Scandinavian Snack with coffee by Ewan Munro. Used under a Creative Commons License

Try Lingonberry, Gooseberry and Cloudberry Jam

Lingonberry, Gooseberry and Cloudberry jams and preserves are all popular spreads on Finnish breads and crackers.

Sylt Lingon, Lingonberry preserves, Ikea Food, 14.1 oz jar - Super fruit
Sylt Lingon, Lingonberry preserves, Ikea Food, 14.1 oz jar - Super fruit

If you can get to a local IKEA you can buy Sylt Lingon, or Lingonberry preserves, which are delicious on Finnish breads and crackers.

 

More about Lingonberries

Discover what the Scandinavians have known about the Lingonberry, superfruit. This superfruit from the Northern Hemisphere is filled with all kinds of beneficial antioxidants.


Lingonberry - A Superfruit from the Northern Hemisphere
Lingonberries have long been a source of beneficial nutrition for Scandinavians and those living in the Northern Hemisphere where the lingonberries grow wild...

Finnish and Swedish Crisp Bread on Amazon

The crispbreads are made from simple ingredients: Whole Rye Flour, Yeast, Water and Salt.

Leksands Original Swedish Rye Crispbread - Wedge, 7.06-Ounce Packages (Pack of 12)
Leksands Original Swedish Rye Crispbread - Wedge, 7.06-Ounce Packages (Pack of 12)

Leksands Crispbread wedges are very convenient for making open-faced sandwiches.

 

Finnish Cookbook on Amazon

The Finnish Cookbook: Finland's best-selling cookbook adapted for American kitchens Includes recipes for sour rye bread, Bishop's pepper cookies, and Finnnish smorgasbord (The Crown Cookbook Series)
The Finnish Cookbook: Finland's best-selling cookbook adapted for American kitchens Includes recipes for sour rye bread, Bishop's pepper cookies, and Finnnish smorgasbord (The Crown Cookbook Series)

In researching for this page, one name kept coming up for Finnish Recipes, that of Beatrice Ojakangas. Here is her highly rated cookbook of Finnish recipes based on Finland's best-selling cookbook.

 

Serve Coffee with Gingerbread

Image by nixielinks
Image by nixielinks

Gingerbread cookies are a perfect accompaniment to Finnish Coffee.

Heart Gingerbread by nixielinks.

More on Finnish Gingerbread

Gingerbread or Piparkakut is another Finnish Favorite with coffee. The Piparkakut lens includes my Mother's recipe for Gingerbread, that is my favorite.


Piparkakut - The Best Gingerbread Recipe Ever
For me Christmas would not be Christmas without having Gingerbread cookies, but not just any gingerbread cookies, my Mom's special recipe for Piparkakut or F...

Finnish Gingerbread Houses
One of the Christmas family traditions we had when I was growing up was making a Gingerbread house. My mom always made a Gingerbread house, so I didn't thin...

Finnish Chocolate and Candy on Amazon

Finnish candies and chocolate make for delicious after coffee treats.

Fazer Marianne Chocolate Filled Mint Candies Imported From Finland 7.76oz(220g)
Fazer Marianne Chocolate Filled Mint Candies Imported From Finland 7.76oz(220g)

Fazer Marianne candies are mint flavored hard candies with chocolate fillings.

 
Fazer Fazermint Chocolate Creams, 1 lb Bag in a Gift Box
Fazer Fazermint Chocolate Creams, 1 lb Bag in a Gift Box

Fazermints are chocolate candies with mint fillings (just the opposite of the Marianne's)

 

Learn More about Panda Licorice

Panda brand is my favorite licorice from Finland. They even make one that is flavored with blueberries.


Panda Licorice
After dark chocolate, real licorice, natural Panda licorice made in Finland is one of my favorite sweet treats. Fortunately, natural licorice is one of the h...

Fazer Chocolate on eBay

Fazer Bars come in several different flavors, but I still think my favorite is the Milk Chocolate. The milk chocolate recipe is very distinctive and delicious. This is the one bar that I prefer milk to dark chocolate.

Fazer's "Blue" bar. We get these at Christmas as gifts from my Mom and I am lucky if I ever get a piece.

Finnish Coffee Cups and Serving Trays

Image by joan!ta
Image by joan!ta

Drink Your Coffee from Finnish Coffee Mugs

Drinking Finnish coffee from a Finnish coffee mug is an obvious way to really feel like you are taking a true Finnish Fika (coffee break).

For me, drinking coffee from a Finnish mug connects me to my heritage, my roots and my grandparents, long deceased. We have quite a collection of mugs and I've been adding more Finnish mugs from Arabia and Iittala to my collection.

I have the Teema mugs in black as part of our everyday dishes. If I had a chance to pick the colors over, I would probably choose the Turquoise Teema Mugs because they are such a soothing color.

My Taika Blue Mug has been by my side as I write this lens, working it's "Magic," although I need to remember to be taking more breaks. (Taika means 'magic' in Finnish; this is the name chosen by Finnish illustrator and artist Klaus Haapaniemi for the folk inspired Taika collection of tableware.)

Taika Blue Mug by joan!ta

Moomins on Coffee Mugs

I enjoy drinking my morning coffee with my Moomin Mugs. Moomins are the lovable critters created by Finnish author, Tove Jansson. If you don't know anything about the Moomins, I would suggest you read my Moomins lens.

Among other merchandise, the Moomins have been turned into mugs by the Finnish company Arabia. Moomin mugs can be found in some of the Finnish Specialty stores online as well as on eBay.

We own several Moomin mugs, since these are easy gifts for my Mom to bring back from her trips to Finland. She brought several back for my daughters. Needless to say I was pretty surprised to see how the Moomin mugs have become collector items, fetching hundreds of dollars (for a coffee) since many are released in limited editions.

We have one of the 2000 Moomin Millennium Mugs and some of the other older mugs, which are now being stored in a safe place.

Moomin Mugs by Jem Stone. Used under a Creative Commons License.

My Favorite Iittala Taika Mug

Iittala Taika Mug, Blue, 13-Ounce
Iittala Taika Mug, Blue, 13-Ounce

The Iittala Taika Mug features an enchanted forest theme.

Taika means Magic. The Taika collection was designed by Finnish artist Klaus Haapaniemi.

The collection is available in blue, white and red.

 
Image by Jem Stone
Image by Jem Stone

Learn More about the Moomins

The Moomins is my favorite Finnish book series.


The Moomins
My mother is from Finland, so I grew up reading stories from Moomin Valley about critters called the Moomins and all of their friends. The Moomins are creat...

Iittala Teema Serving Set

Image by Dinner series
Image by Dinner series

Serve Coffee with an Iittala Teema Serving Set by Dinner series. Used under a Creative Commons License

Finnish Serving Trays on Amazon

Serve up your Finnish Coffee and treats on these trays from Finland.

Iittala Aalto Serving Platter, Oak, 17 x 14-Inches
Iittala Aalto Serving Platter, Oak, 17 x 14-Inches

The iconic Aalto pattern from Iittala has been turned into an oak serving platter.

Measures: 17 x 14 inches

 
Iittala Teema 6-1/2 X 15-Inch Platter, White
Iittala Teema 6-1/2 X 15-Inch Platter, White

Another serving tray from Iittala, this one in white from the sleek Teema collection.

Measures: 6 1/4 x 14.5 inches

 

Serve Your Cakes with a Finnish Cake Cutter and Server

Use a Finnish cake cutter and server to cut any of your special coffee cakes.


Magisso Cake Cutter and Server Gadget is a Unique Chef Gift
The Magisso Cake Server is on my own wish list and gift giving list as a stylish, "must have" kitchen tool for cutting cake. This innovative cake cutter fro...

Finnish Sokeri (Sugar)

Available on Amazon
Available on Amazon

Just a Spoonful or Cube of Sugar

My grandmother, who originally live in the United States as a child, liked to drink her Finnish coffee with sugar, as a sugar cube. Some would even put a sugar cube in their mouth and drink the black coffee through the sugar cube.

We visited my Mummu (Grandmother) in Finland when I was young; this may have been the first time I saw sugar cubes. Needless to say I thought that sugar cubes were fascinating.

I remember the ritual of having sugar cubes in the bowl and using special sugar tongs to get the sugar. If you were lucky, you might even just get a straight sugar cube.

Of course these were in the days when kids weren't getting tons of sugar in their food, so getting sugar cubes was a treat.

Probably because of these early memories, I still think of sugar cubes as being special. It may be a fun tradition to resurrect with my girls.

Bowl of Sugar Cubes Wall Decal available on Amazon

Add Some Sugar (Sokeri) to Your Coffee

Don't forget the Sugar Tongs

Serve up the sugar in sugar bowls with sugar tongs.

Cuisinox Sugar Cube Tongs
Cuisinox Sugar Cube Tongs

These sugar cube tongs look a lot like the elegant ones that my Grandmother used.

 

The Extra - Whipped Cream (Kermavaahto)

Coffee Topped with Whipped Cream - A Family Tradition

My Mom tells stories of how my Grandmother, Mummu used to drink her coffee, when she had a chance. She liked her coffee a little sweet and creamy, more like a traditional cup of coffee now. Undoubtedly she would have loved the coffee bar options.

For sweetness she would the coffee through a sugar cube held in the mouth. For creaminess she would drink it with whipped cream, when cream for whipping was available. These were the days when the cream was whipped by hand rather than with electric mixers.

I ended up telling my girls about the coffee with whipped cream being a favorite of my Grandmother, which of course they had to try.

Now black coffee with whipped cream is a favorite drink of my daughters, carrying on the family tradition.

Whipped Cream by Rhett Sutphin.

Created to Showcase the Coffee Theme

To celebrate the release of the new Coffee theme lens, lensmasters were challenged to try it out on a new lens about our favorite coffee. This is my coffee themed lens.

Have you ever tried any Finnish Coffee or coffee cakes?

Comment on Finnish Coffee and Pulla

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    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 3 years ago from Northern California

      @ForGoodPeople: Thank you.

    • ForGoodPeople profile image

      Pinar Unlu 3 years ago from Mugla Turkey

      Nice lens :)

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @othellos: Thank you for the kinds remarks. I keep writing lenses on topics that I enjoy. Hope you get a chance to sample some Finnish Coffee.

    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Excellent lens indeed. You deserve a Lens Of the Day title without doubt. It's a pity that the responsible people can't discover these little diamonds... As a coffee expert I am glad I added you on my bookmarks for a lot of future readings:=)

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @Gypzeerose: Thank you for the blessings. I think a daily coffee break celebration is a wonderful idea.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

      Happy to sprinkle some angel dust on this nice lens. Coffee - I live for coffee! I think I would love to visit Finland, the coffee is not the only reason but it doesn't hurt. I think a Finnish coffee break sounds lovely.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @Scarlettohairy: Let me know how you like it. Try baking some pulla to go along with it for a real treat.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @adragast24: I hope you get a chance to visit. It is a lovely country.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I love black coffee and a lighter roast. Sounds like Finnish coffee would be right up my alley. Your breads (pulla) look wonderful, too!

    • adragast24 profile image

      adragast24 4 years ago

      That's it, you have convinced me, I need to go to Finland.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @BarbaraCasey: I only know my mother's version of pulla. I don't remember my grandmother's version. I think my kids would enjoy the sugar cube 'trick' and they'll definitely enjoy the oven pancakes, maybe even as a surprise tonight, since I am now craving them after writing the lens.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @grannysage: Thank you for sharing yours. I have been surprised to find so many others on Squidoo with Finnish roots.

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 4 years ago

      My sister and I tried to reproduce my grandmother's pulla recipe, but she measured by the handful, not using a measuring cup. And my grandmother popped in the sugar cube first, too, followed by a sip of coffee. Thank you very much for including my Finnish Oven Pancake lens. These pancakes are so easy to make... and sooooo tasty.

    • profile image

      grannysage 4 years ago

      I can smell the cardamom now. My aunt used to call me to tell me she had just made some nisu, which is what she called pulla (have not heard that word before). I would jump on my bike and get over there while it was still warm. My mother was Swedish so she didn't make it. She made Swedish Tea-ring instead. I started drinking coffee at a young age because the coffee break was a tradition in my house. My dad liked to eat the rye crackers too. Such lovely memories you have stirred up for me.