photo © City of Helsinki / Royal Restaurants
It is a little known fact that Finns drink more coffee per capita than any other nation in the world, consuming an astonishing average of almost 10kg per person annually. As a result, café culture plays a prominent role in Finnish society and wherever you go in the country you’ll be sure to find a cosy café.
Finnish coffee tastes quite different to that on offer in other countries due to the fact that in Finland coffee is roasted lighter, in fact it is known to be the lightest roast in the world, although a similarly light roast can be found in Northern Sweden. Of course there are medium and dark roasts available, both Finnish and international brands, but by far the most popular are the light roasts. Roasteries in Finland attribute the this popularity to the high quality and the softness of the water which helps extract the flavours best. In addition, Finns use the highest quality coffee beans available, and these combined with their naturally pure water, have no defects in taste that would need to be hidden by a darker roast.
Helsinki, in particular, has a vibrant café scene, and from late Spring to Autumn the wide streets become lively terraces. Apparently the growth of coffee society in the capital can in part be attributed to Finland’s position between the Eastern and Western blocs during the cold war, when it was a den of spies who chose to meet as often in cafés as they did in the numerous parks around the city. Today, there are some 40 cafés in Helsinki alone, ranging from the lavish Café Strindberg and Café Ekberg, to the popular student hangout Café Engel in Senate Square, and the unmissable Kappeli at the bottom of the Esplanade.
You can also enjoy a coffee when you visit any museum, and almost every gallery, in Finland, or are enjoying a relaxing stroll through any park, no matter how small. Almost every town of a reasonable size has a market square, and often a delightful market hall beside it, and these always feature coffee stalls where you can sit and watch the world go by.