Finland, Food & Drink

Café Kaneli, Kauppakatu 22, Kuopio

A few weeks ago I woke up at my parent’s summer cottage and the place looked like after an unsuccessful bomb disposal operation.

There had been a wedding celebrations, and I had been the bride.

I opened my eyes in the morning, according to the darkness quite early, and had a little looksie around from underneath the duvé: pieces of cakes, truffles, dirty glasses of champagne and half empty bottles.

This is not how it was supposed to begin, my serene life as a married woman, no, no, not at all.

I had a slight headache (not due to the cava, but to the lack of coffee consumption during the busy day of getting married), and I knew that coffee must be obtained, and it must be obtained with as little effort as possible. I didn’t even want to think about the pile of dishes I would have needed to go through to get to the coffee pot, so I decided rather to drive to Kuopio, where

1) we would get a nice cup of coffee in a coffee shop called Kaneli (i.e. Cinnamon), made by someone else
2) we would get a morning cup of coffee at the market square, and yes, made by someone else

Either way, there would be coffee in Kuopio, made by someone else.


A “kissing box” in Kuopio harbour.

Kuopio is the capital of my, shall I say, dialect area called Savonia in Finland: the Savonian people are known for their way of using words and somewhat lengthy answers to questions and, if you still happen to be awake by the end of the answer, you still wonder whether the answer was yes, no or even a maybe – that is, if you by this time can remember what was the question. I have mixed feelings towards this Finnish city: on the other hand it is the Big City I moved into when I was 15 and started studying music in the high school of my dreams, on the other hand, I was probably too young to live on my own, and never adjusted. Now I only remember the long, dark and windy winter days, eternal bus journeys to school and back, some Latin, and my diet, which consisted mainly bags of Candy King sweets, and donuts from Arnold’s. When I deserved a little bit of spoiling, I sneaked into the Market Hall and got myself a stuffed baguette. I was already a freak for coffee at the time, but even in a city like Kuopio you couldn’t get a decent cup of cappuccino to satisfy the snob in the teenage me.

Kaneli's decór.

Kaneli’s decór.

Now things have changed, and Kaneli coffee shop is worth even a little detour when I visit the Savonia area in Finland. I visited the coffee shop first time a few years ago, when the waitress told me that the inspiration for the place comes from Portugal as I was admiring the pies behind the counter. And the atmosphere really is a bit different than in the surrounding city, which is famous for its market square culture (torikulttuuri): there was a husky-voiced singer in the stereos, the furniture was all old and mis-matching, and the lighting warm yellowish: very cosy, very cosy indeed to enjoy a cup of coffee and a little bit of chit chat.

But this time my visit to Kaneli was a bit different, for, if not Portuguese, I had a Portuguese speaking coffee inspector with me, that is, my newly wed husband. And what it comes to coffee, he’s often inclined towards a chocolaty coffee, café mocha, whereas I tend to keep these two delicatessen separate.

Café mocha is an American invention, which in turn is a variation from a Turin drink il bicerin. Mocha in the American way is a coffee drink made as latte but with chocolate in it, and a cappuccino-like foam on top – sometimes you even get marshmallows or whipped cream on top as well. But bicerin is a three layered drink of espresso, cocoa and milk (or cream): the first Turin bicerin was made in 1763. In the beginning, the drink was referred as il bavareisa, but soon everyone knew it as bicerin, which means a small glass in Piedmontese. Its most famous admirer has been Alexandre Dumas, who praised the coffee in 1852:

I will never forget Bicerin, an excellent drink consisting of coffee, milk and chocolate that is served in all the coffee shops.”

Bavareisa might have been known already in the 17th century, but the difference between the bavareisa and the bicerin is that in bicerin the components of the drink are kept as separate layers where as in bavareisa the ingredients are all mixed. Bicerin is an integral part of Turin’s coffee culture, although the town has invented other culinary concoctions, such as ice cream on a stick, or, Pinguino.

Mocha refers to the coffee bean grown in Mocha, Jemen, where it spread to Europe in the 18th century. This coffee bean had a hint of chocolaty flavour in it, although the bean lost this magical quality in later years.

It was wild upstairs.

It was wild upstairs.

To sum up, I came into a conclusion that, in fact, my husband prefers bavareisa, and not, for example, mocha served in a big glass as they do in Brazil – and, as it happens, in café Kaneli in Kuopio.

But after all this lecturing about bicerins and mocha beans and the variations of mochas, my macchiato didn’t give big enough a boost, and I felt like I needed a more effective kick to start my life as a Mrs, so we marched across the street: here, at the Kuopio Market Square you can enjoy a type of coffee that is an institution in Finland. That is, a torikahvi, coffee enjoyed from a paper cup in a market square.

But for this type of coffee, I cannot offer a lecture.

Go and try it yourself.

Torikahvi and torimunkki, i.e. a market square coffee and a market  square donut are institutions in Savonia.

Torikahvi and torimunkki, i.e. a market square coffee and a market square donut are institutions in Savonia.

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