For this post you’re going to need to grab a beverage (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, a whatever) and a little sweet snack. I can wait.....
The year was 2014, I had cut out dairy from my diet and was in desperate need for coffee. Alternative milks for lattes weren't really a thing back then, so I had to come up with some other kind of option to get the caffeine fix. I tried every kind of Starbucks drip coffee and it wasn’t cutting it. I refused (and still do) to go to Tim Hortons and the coffee culture wasn't as strong as it is now. Everything tasted too sour and I couldn’t handle it. It wasn't until I tried an americano from a local food truck that began my search for the best americano in the city and my love for good coffee.
The evolution over the last few years has made me jokingly refer to myself as a connoisseur of fine coffee - my taste have become more refined and I know what I like. Others call me a snob with my hot bean water and I am a-ok with that too. I prefer a pour over coffee over a drip when I visit a coffee shop and a french press at home. I have several coworkers who can testify I'm changing (coffee) lives by making people try their coffee black first. I mean - they still add sugar or milk but it's less than what they usually put in there.
So, when 2017 approached my sister and I found ourselves planning a trip to San Francisco to visit our uncles and I only had one item on the itinerary - coffee shops!
I believe by the time my spreadsheet was complete I had about ten places we could potentially visit. I was already pumped with no caffeine in my system. My uncles were very agreeable to our list of places to visit and my list to get the fix for a good cup of java. Each day was planned with thoughtful consideration, an activity for my sister and a coffee shop that was in the area. The days were timed so that somehow we managed to make it to the coffee shop by 2:30 - 3 o’clock every afternoon. It was explained that this timing was not coincidence but on purpose - this was the time for fika (pronounced fee-kah). We discovered some really great roasters: Ritual, Jane and my personal favourite Blue Bottle. We also ate some really great food, but most importantly - laughed!
San Francisco fika
It seems that everywhere in the world, except for North America, has a tradition around people relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. In Sweden they call it fika, a time to take a break and have something to eat. But it also has such a deeper meaning, it’s a moment to relax, catch up with family and laugh with friends. That’s the most important part to fika - the togetherness that’s created, a moment shared.
I took a lot of photos of coffee cups that trip. A lot of time spent around posing and reposing, waiting till the picture was taken before enjoying that first sip. It was the start of a diary on Instagram for our coffee adventures. I don’t think I can tell you how many coffee shops we visited but I can tell you my suitcase home had three bags of coffee beans and a new travel mug for my collection. After the uncles return from SFO, fika continued. They would drive into the city or we would go visit them at their house. Fika evolved into nieces brunch with my cousin. I don’t think the five of us would be as close as we are right now if we didn’t take the time to pause and just enjoy our time together. I sometimes imagine this is what life must have been like in the 1950's when you would pop over to a neighbor's for a coffee visit. Before life was about the hustle and bustle, the who can get that buck the fastest or be the first, before the instant gratification chasm was created.
Fika at home
My dad and I have even adopted our own version of fika. We go to different coffee shops around the city, sampling the wares. We started taking coffee tasting courses to really get down into the nitty grittiness of our snobbery. We’ve discovered that he is more of a nutty, chocolate kind of guy and I’m more of a fruity floral kind of gal. Which is great for him when my coffee subscription surprises me with tasting notes I know he’ll prefer. 😉 The time that we've spent together chatting about coffee or sharing new shops has allowed our bond to grow. and strengthen.
However, over the last year the true value behind fika has become a little distant, like we all have had to do. We do virtual coffees or brunch - still in the awkward stages of, “did you say something, oh sorry didn’t mean to cut you off, I can’t hear you and this technology can...” well you get the gist. Fika has turned into fika for one. Which has been alright - I hustle into a coffee shop near me, grab a java and go for a walk. Take the time to just be outside and enjoy the quiet. My own version of meditation, it’s been quite peaceful.
If there is anything that this last year has taught us, it’s don’t take people for granted. Slow down, take time to enjoy the moments we have together. Sit in the space of laughter and joy with them and with yourself.
I leave you with one call to action for this week, book a fika with someone you haven't talked to in awhile or someone you want to reconnect with. Enjoy the company, cheers!