Kitchen Memories: Finnish Coffee Time

Finnish Coffee Time

by In My Kitchen Host Taryn, photo credit: SAVEUR

Finns drink a lot of coffee! They have a rich history with the beverage from the time it arrived in the country as a beverage of the elite to it’s rise during prohibition to it’s “extinction” during WWII. It is drunk to mark celebrations or occasions; a baby is born, you drink coffee, someone is married, you drink coffee, you lose a loved one, you drink coffee, whatever the occasion you drink coffee. Much like the Swedish have fika, Finns also have coffee time; remember Finland was part of Sweden for a long time. Coffee time can be the 15 minute mandatory break at work with a quiet cup of coffee and a sweet bun (something like a brioche or in Finland, pulla) or a more elaborate spread of cookies, cakes and of course pulla (recipe below) shared with friends.

Every Finnish family member of mine has their own coffee ritual and memories. My aunt cannot have a coffee without a small piece of food, whether it’s a piece of toast with marmalade, cookie or sweet bun. She recalls, as a little girl in Finland, having tea time with her Mummu (granny); silver tea and pulla. My dad on the other hand upholds the quantity and style of coffee Finns are known for drinking. He drinks a lot of lightly roasted coffee. Where I really saw the Finnish coffee ritual shine was in the memories of my Granny and Grandad. Before breakfast, my Granny and Grandad would sit on the patio of the cabin with a proper tea cup full of coffee and a slice of plain pulla enjoying the silence of nature and each other's presence; you can’t get anymore Finnish than this. Sometime between morning porridge and lunch time, they would have another cup, again seated, in a proper cup, enjoying a moment of silence. And again in the evening with another light snack. When we had Sunday dinners at their house, Granny always finished the meal with a small scale proper coffee spread. It would have pulla (as you may have noticed this is a non-negotiable), spice cookies and a small iced cake. From my understanding, the large elaborate coffee spreads that have a variety of cookies and cakes are a tradition being left with the past, something that everyone’s Mummu is known for or being left for special occasions. 

For me, coffee time is a quiet time, a time of reflection, it’s intentional, where I sit and enjoy. You will rarely see me with a travel mug of coffee.


Pulla (buul-lah)

2 loaves

1 ¾ c whole milk

½ c butter, salted or unsalted

1 c white sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tsp ground cardamom *

2 envelopes active dry yeast

¼ c warm water, body temp

1 large egg

6-6 ½ c All purpose flour

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp milk

Flaked almonds

Pearl sugar *

Heat the milk in a saucepan until small bubbles form on the side of the pan. Pour the milk into a mixing bowl, add the butter, sugar, salt and cardamom, and let it cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in warm water and add to the lukewarm milk. Lightly beat the egg and add to the milk. Add 3 cups of flour and mix with a wooden spoon, until smooth, add another 3 cups of flour. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed. Try to add as little flour as possible. When the dough is smooth, return it to the bowl, cover and let rise until doubled for 1 ½ - 2 hrs.

Divide into 2 equal parts, dividing those parts into 3-4 pieces. Take each of those pieces and roll into ropes the same length. Braid the strands loosely, starting from the centre creating a 3 or 4 piece bread. Pinch ends and tuck under. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and let rise for 45 min to an hour.

Heat oven to 375F. MIx the egg yolk and milk, brush on loaves and sprinkle with sugar and almonds. Bake for 25 minutes or until brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

*I prefer to buy whole cardamom pods and grind the cardamom myself as it’s stronger. I also use 1 tbsp, but I LOVE cardamom. Pearl sugar can usually be found down the ethnic aisle of your grocery store.


1 comment

  • Remy

    Thank you for sharing.

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