In Paris, it’s consumed to perk up the conversation at the end of the night. In London and New York, it’s the oil in a full-throttle lifestyle. But when it comes to actual coffee consumption, nobody sips more java than Finland.
That remarkable amount of swillage is based on the findings of the International Coffee Organization, which breaks it down this way: Finns consume the flavorful drippings of 12.2 kilograms (nearly 27 pounds) of coffee per person per year. So, if you follow the formula of the Specialty Coffee Association of America — in which a pound of coffee yields 48 6-ounce jolts of joe — Finns end up drinking 1,296 cups per year, or nearly three and a half cups each and every day.
What about the espresso lovers in the audience? If you do the math of a 7-gram espresso, in Finland that’s almost 1,745 espressos each, or nearly five per day. That’s more than double the yearly consumption in Italy (800 espressos per person) or France (729 espressos). The U.S., with a measly 643 espressos per person each year, doesn’t even come close.
For many Finns, coffee consumption is a point of national pride.
An investigation of what makes Finland’s coffee culture special could leave you with the jitters. Helsinki’s cafes are calm, kind, just a little offbeat — one sells coffee both in liquid and bar form, alongside European startup fuel Club-Mate — but coffee isn’t just in the cafes. Every meeting, whether for business or pleasure and no matter what time of day, starts with an offer of coffee. Coffee breaks are also embedded in Finland’s workplace culture, with well-scrubbed coffee cups in a tidy corner of every office.
“It’s dark and quite cold most of the year, and you need something to keep you going,” explains Samuli Ronkanen, one of the owners of Good Life Coffee, a shop in Helsinki’s chic Kallio neighborhood where you can eat avocado toast while flipping through artisanal magazines about coffee. The climate-based explanation was common among Finns to whom we posed this question, and it tracks with the fact that Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark all rank high for coffee consumption. It’s also a matter of hospitality — being offered a cup of coffee in someone’s home is as inevitable as being offered tea in someone’s London flat.
As for Helsinki’s coffee culture, that’s a newer thing. Coffee can’t be grown in northern Europe, so the drink was much rarer in Finland’s impoverished past — a drink for special occasions. “In the ’90s, the Starbucks-style cafes began to appear and became meeting places for the young people,” says Ronkanen, noting that coffee is also commonly found at gas stations, which are another popular hangout for young Finns. Finland’s love of coffee is also spawning new appreciations like the Helsinki Coffee Festival, which kicked off in 2015 and is now the biggest coffee-related event in the Nordic countries.
For many Finns, coffee consumption is a point of national pride, another index in which Finland tops the world — the happiest people, the cleanest air, the world’s biggest consumers of coffee. And, perhaps related to the latter, the world’s biggest consumers of milk.
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