As the Swedish fika is conquering the world, there is something undefinable and unique in the Finnish coffee break, kahvitauko.
Coming from Finland, I am used to having coffee breaks in relatively strictly punctuated intervals; in fact, it is in the Finnish law to have a certain amount of coffee breaks during work hours. But as the Swedish fika (coffee break with something small, such as cinnamon buns or cakes, to eat) is conquering the coffee-drinking world, we Finns prefer not to make a fuss about our coffee break (kahvitauko): filter coffee with whatever happens to be at hand is enjoyed in quietude, and preferably in relaxed solitude.
There are a few Scandinavian coffee shops in London of which the Nordic Bakery with its cinnamon buns and simple Iittala mugs is probably one of the most celebrated ones. I visit their coffee shop (kahvila) in Soho from time to time, when I most need a break from London life. Here, the décor is reminiscent of my childhood visits to distant relatives’ cottages: worn out wooden walls with 1970s tapestries, simple wooden tables, chairs and benches, and a quiet atmosphere even with a full house of, what it seems, mostly Scandinavians munching on their buns and rye breads while planning their next visits to the distant summer cottages back home.
The other day I popped into Nordic Bakery’s location near Baker Street station – I was in the area in business (although, the truth to be told, at the moment my business is to drink as much coffee in London as I can), and really needed a coffee break, well, from coffee…? As said, in Finland, coffee breaks are mandatory, and as we Finns are very law-abiding citizens, people who skip their coffee break just to do some extra minutes of work can be, quite righteously, frown upon: how dare they snuff at the sacred institution of kahvitauko!
During kahvitauko, it is not rude to leave your desk and walk straight to the communal kitchenette’s cupboard and take out your designated Moomin cup. It is not rude just to sludge to the Moccamaster, and pour yourself a nice and steamy, if in luck recently brewed cup of super-market filter without uttering a word. It is not rude to sit down and open the newspaper even (or especially) if there are other people having their break at the same time: kahvitauko is quality time between you and your coffee. And, if you are lucky, your fellow colleagues cherish their kahvitauko with the same fervour as you do, and the only sound in the room (which is called the coffee room, kahvihuone) is the noise of the ventilation.
In London coffee shops it is usually rare to find quietude: when the customers are scarce, the music is on full blast. And most commonly, it is both the customers and the music that are on full blast. But here, in Dorset Street Nordic Bakery, you find the best Scandinavian silence in London. And how do you determine the quality of silence? Listen to the ventilator humming… listen closely… can you hear it? And that’s it; you can actually hear that low humming noise without any sudden, loud bursts of laughter, no loud pop music disturbing your course of thought, no heated business meetings or ostentatiously flashy gestures – no, we Scandinavian coffee breakers sip on our coffees pondering on our lives and futures in quietude.
What: Nordic Bakery is a Scandinavian-style café with a good selection on sweet and savory Scandinavian delicatessen, such as cinnamon buns, filled rye bread, and berry juices. The café announces to be “a peaceful meeting place in a frantic city – a space where visual clutter and noise is eliminated from your café experience” – which is exactly what it is.
Where: Nordic Bakery has three locations in London: one a little bit more buzzing, in the subtle Scandinavian way, in Soho, and two in Marylebone area. After having my coffee break in Dorset Street, I visited The Wallace Collection just around the corner. You can pop into the Nordic Bakery, for example, after experiencing such London attractions as Madame Tussaud’s or Sherlock Holmes Museum.
When: Nordic Bakeries are open on weekdays from 7.30 to 6.30, on Saturdays they open an hour later, and on Sundays and Bank holidays the cafés are open from 9 to 6. Enjoy!