There’s something special about Swedish coffee culture. Maybe it’s because it’s dark for so much of the year, and there’s no better way to keep yourself going in the dark. Here, coffee is an essential part of the everyday, so much so that they have an entire tradition (fika) built up around it.
Historically, that coffee culture has most often equated to a dark, strong cup of brew. But over the last few years, Sweden, just like its Nordic counterparts, has been making a name for itself in the specialty coffee world. If you’re coming to the Swedish capital and in the mood to test out some true Nordic specialty coffee culture, here are four spots that will ensure you get a real dose of the best that Sweden has to offer.
Don’t let the name lead you astray. There is nothing mean about the people who run this cafe, save for their coffee game. The blackboard outside the cafe boasts a list of heavy-hitters in the Nordic roasting world, as well as elsewhere in Europe, all of whom make their way into the cafe at some point or another. You never know what you’re going to get visiting Mean: the first time I went I snagged a bag of beans from Koppi; the next time it was one from Love Coffee Roasters from Lund, in the south of Sweden. But beyond providing a well-rounded selection of the Scandinavian roasters, Mean Coffee also has an excellent added benefit: it’s a stone’s throw from the train station, which means you can visit when your train pulls into Stockholm and before it leaves. For any coffee traveler, that’s a double win.
Editors note: Mean Coffee closed shop on July 17th.
Drop Coffee Roasters
I don’t need to tell you that there is something special about the coffee at Drop Coffee, our 2013 Sprudgie Award Winner for Notable Roaster—this brand’s work speaks for itself. Since launching in 2009, Drop Coffee has garnered a reputation in Sweden and abroad, and this year Joanna Alm won not only the Swedish Roasting Championship, but she came in second at the 2015 World Coffee Roasting Championship. Drop’s coffee bar in Södermalm is cozy and relaxed, a place where you can sit and enjoy your cup. And in a culture where the tradition of fika reigns, that’s exactly what a Swedish cafe should feel like.
Johan & Nyström
Both a coffee roaster and a tea seller, entering the Johan & Nyström concept boutique in Södermalm almost feels like you’re entering the space of a specialty merchant from the 1800s, but with a modern touch. The walls are stacked all the way to the ceiling with coffee and tea, with a bar in the center for serving the drinks that they travel the world to source. Downstairs there’s a training area, and peppered throughout the store you’ll find fancy coffee accessories like the Hario Filter-in Bottle, for easily making cold brew at home. The space is also just around the block from Drop, which means you can easily spend an extra caffeinated afternoon bouncing between the two.
If you didn’t know about the cafe at Snickarbacken 7, you just might miss it. Hidden on a small street in between Vasastan and Östermalm, you’ll find Snickarbacken 7, a space that’s part cafe, part art gallery, and part clothing store. What makes Snickarbacken 7 unique is the space, which dates back to the 1800s and formerly served as stables. They're serving coffee now, as well as breakfast and lunch, in partnership up with Kaffeverket, who owns another cafe in town. Coffee here is from Stockholm Roast, and they also have bags of Per Nordby on sale to take home.
In the mood for a real Swedish breakfast? Order a boiled egg with caviar, the Swedish specialty. With its high vaulted ceilings, it almost feels like you’re drinking coffee in an old church. Snickarbacken 7 is worth a visit for the space alone, but a V60 or an espresso made on the Synesso espresso machine paired with a cardamom bun won’t hurt.
Anna Brones (@annabrones) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Paris, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break, available now from Ten Speed Press. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.
Correction: Mean Coffee closed shop on Friday, July 17th, 2015.