Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tea versus Coffee

Coffee for all in Scandinavia...
Statistics say that Swedes drink more coffee than most Western countries., except neighbours Finland, Norway, and Denmark. As soon as you arrive in Sweden, you realize how much and how strong, the natives drink their coffee, even before going to sleep! Fika is here a strong tradition of socializing around a mug of coffee with something to eat, usually sweet.
I've come to know many of them after living here a year and a half, and I have to say that my favourite is, to my surprise, Prinsessbakelse or Prinsesstårta. Usually covered in a bright green marzipan layer (which i had to get over before trying it), it contains layers of sponge, jam, and vanilla custard, topped with thick whipped cream. When I realized it was the Swedish version of a Victoria cake, I was lost!

Swedes punctuate the year with festivities that have their own particular sweet associated: the third week in September is officially prinsesstårta week! The photo is from an all-things-Swedish blog. The specific post explains everything there is to know about the cake and how to make it, even at altitude! [Photo source:].

But tea for me!
I persevere with tea (Irish Breakfast always for me, with milk and sugar) in spite of the overwhelming presence of coffee in Sweden, but only at home, as in patisseriets they expect you to use just hot water! (not boiling, sacrilege!). Sometimes the even give you hot water in a teacup and then you have to go and look for the teabag. The result is disgusting, let me tell you.
I like going out to the balcony at midday whenever it's sunny (spring arrived here, in the form of temperatures above 10°C, just two weeks ago), and have lunch with a nice tablecloth and use my tea set. It's one of those simple things that makes me happy.
I'm crazy about tea sets and tea, and I smuggled this one some months after moving to Lund from Madrid. With this I mean that I asked a friend to bring it, carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, in his hand luggage, even when it had been agreed that, as we were going to stay here only two years, it was not worth our while to transport it. I guess that's what my better half announced and I just kept quite. Hence "smuggle".

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago, when this delightful lilac flowers first appeared, signaling, as every year, the arrival of spring. I stopped my bike and collected some by the side of the road because I love having nice flowers with my tea... This is my vintage tea set, Johnson Brothers, Mason's "Brown Velvet", from the 1970s. I was looking for an ironstone tea set (the best thing to keep tea really hot for a long time) on eBay and found first "Blue Mandalay" and bought a small jug, but we preferred this one best. I acquired most of the pieces in one go, for 4 people (cheaper for international transport), and then have added additional ones in groups of 2 and 4, as it is really heavy.

According to ICO (International Coffee Organization),  consumption in 2011 in the 4 biggest consumer countries was (per capita, in Kg.):
  1. Finland 12.17 
  2. Norway 9.51
  3. Denmark  8.21
  4. Sweden 7.14
In contrast, a country you would immediately associate with coffee, Italy, consumes only 5.62!
For its origin, you can visit: 10 things to know about Sweden's food culture, by Lola Akinmade Åkerström.

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