Sophie Blick Bennetzen
A Danish Perspective on Nordic Cafe Culture

I met the beautiful, charming and intelligent Sophie Blick Bennetzen six years ago, when I moved to Copenhagen in the darkest depths of winter to study film at Copenhagen University. Together with our Swedish friend Rebecca, we spent hours upon hours bonding over coffee, tea and Smørrebrød. She recently visited me in Seattle for the first time where I was able to bring her into my own world of Seattle coffee. As we sat outside of Joebar one sunny morning, I took the liberty of picking her brain about Nordic Café Culture. This is what she has to say:

How would you describe Nordic coffee culture?

Coffee culture where I’m from evolves around people coming together either in the home or in a cafe. It is so much more than coffee… it has to do with a certain atmosphere. I'm now referring to this Danish phenomenon of “hygge”. It has to do with the people you are with, what you're drinking, what you're eating and your surroundings.

How would you describe “hygge” and how it plays into coffee?

First of all, you have to have something sweet to go with your coffee. Secondly, you have to have conversation. You can "hygge" by yourself but it's more common that you do it as a group, a community, a circle of friends or your partner. A lot of people light candles. The lighting is key.

What is special about Danish coffee culture?

Danish butter cookies are very important. Growing up, I remember going to my Grandmother's house in the countryside and there were always four different kinds of cookies – either the Danish butter cookies, shortbread or her favorite homemade pastry filled with raisins and marzipan. It's a ritual to eat buns with butter and then the butter cookies and then the pastries. And the act of sitting together with coffee and sweets is a ritual itself. It's much more common around women than men. My grandmother has been drinking coffee every day with the same group of woman for almost 40 years! They talk about everything and nothing. As a Dane, enjoying your coffee and cake together is an important part of your day, especially if you live in the Danish countryside. You have a “coffee hour” set aside each day to spend time with the people you love. 

Tell me about your Danish Grandmother

When you're with my Grandmother, certain rules cannot be broken. You have coffee after breakfast, coffee after lunch and coffee after  dinner. My Grandmother will be 92 years old and she has had coffee with these same girlfriends her whole life.

When we ordered coffee at Joebar you ordered black coffee...
 is this how the Danes drink it usually?

Danes mostly drink their coffee with cream and sugar, but I got really into coffee recently and I’m now starting to discover the beauty of a lightly roasted drip coffee. 

Finskbrød Recipe
Here is the recipe for my dads favorite butter cookies "Finskbrød". My mom and I have been baking these since I was a child and they are super easy and quick to make.
300 gram of flour

85 gram of white sugar

200 gram of butter

Mix these three together until they have the same consistency

Then add

1 egg

1-2 tablespoons of brandy/cognac

The dough should be nice and smooth by now. Cut the dough into quarters and then eighths. Roll out each part into a long thin roll as thick as your thumb, then start cutting bite-sized chunks, and press them flat with your hand till they are about 0.5 cm thick.

Finally brush the cookies with raw beaten eggs, and decorate with chunky white/brown sugar, and chopped almonds (without their skin on).

Bake them for about 10 minutes at 175 degrees Celsius, or until the edges are golden.

Thank you Sophie!


Nordic Coffee Facts by TAKK


Story time
Elsa Beskow - Swedish Author and illustrator

Illustrations from Elsa Beskow's children's book Tant Brun, Tant Grön & Tant Gredelin (Aunt Brown, Aunt Green & Aunt Lavender). 
These sweet aunts always seem to be baking and drinking coffee or on their way to someplace special.
Apparently there is a Tant Brun inspired cafe outside of Stockholm - can't wait to visit it! 


1. Traditional Swedish meeting place to enjoy friends over great coffee, fine baked goods and confections.
2. Where one goes for a coffee break
Cozy little coffee shop in Park Slope where I enjoyed the friendly baristas as much as my Americano sprinkled with cinnamon. 



On a crisp, wintry afternoon, Ashley, Jen and I decided to take part in an age old European tradition of making Smørrebrød: open-face sandwiches.  Although smørrebrød (originally smør og brød; Danish for "butter and bread") has become more complex over the years, the use of local, seasonal and delicious ingredients is a tradition worth maintaining. 
Our spread consisted of hand-made pickled lemon-cucumbers, pickled beets, pickled herring, red onions, sliced cucumber, radish, avocado, liver pate, cheese, butter, and homemade rosemary jam.


Fika at Jen’s apartment: coffee accompanied by sweet treats and sweet friends.

Fika is a social institution in Sweden; it means having a break, most often a coffee break, with one's colleagues, friends, date, or family. Originally used as a Swedish verb meaning "to go out for coffee," the word fika can also be used as a noun ("coffee break").  This practice of taking a break, typically with a cinnamon roll or some biscuits or cookies, or sometimes a smörgås or a fruit on the side, is central to Swedish life.