Posted in Kafevend Blog
When it comes to coffee consumption, the Scandinavians have got us beat. Whilst they don't get through the quantity a country like the USA does, per capita they are up there in the top 10 year on year. Scandinavia aren't just fixated on drinking coffee though- it was Norway that came up with the World Barista Championships, which have now been running since 2000, promoting the enjoyment of making coffee as well as drinking it.
Coffee wasn't always such a widely enjoyed drink however. In Sweden for example, King Gustav III ordered an experiment to try and prove the negative effects of coffee. A pair of twins who had been sentenced to death for criminal activities had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment on the condition that one drank coffee and the other tea for the rest of their lives. Amusingly, the doctors overseeing the trial and King Gustav himself died before either of the prisoners. The first of the twins to die was the tea drinker at 83- at what age the coffee drinker died is not known, but seems irrelevant as his survival seemed to rather neatly nip in the bud Gustav's doubts about coffee!
The Danish have enjoyed coffee as their national drink of choice since the early 19th century, as the opposition to the drink disappeared under the overwhelming public opinion that was of a mind that it wasn't actually all that bad. Denmark has a strong coffee culture, and it would be unusual not to have several cups a day there. Like flat whites in the Antipodes or Café con leche in Spain, Denmark has its own regional coffee in the form of the odd sounding egg coffee. Though initially it may sound unappealing, it's apparently rather good as the egg adds to the flavour and results in a very smooth drink- that is, as long as the egg shell isn't added!
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard perhaps epitomises the coffee mania that holds sway in Scandinavia. Thanks to his brilliant- if lengthy- biography by Joakim Garff, we know of the rather unique way in which Kierkegaard enjoyed making his coffee. First he would pick a cup and saucer from the several dozen or so he kept in a cupboard (of which no two were alike). Next, he "poured sugar into the coffee cup until it was piled up above the rim" (his poor teeth). Then he somehow found room in the cup for strong, black coffee, which barely had time to dissolve the sugar before he drank the resulting syrupy mass.
When he wasn't buzzing on coffee- or perhaps when he was- Kierkegaard engaged himself in the world of philosophy. Born in 1813, Kierkegaard's first published foray came in 1843 when he released 'Either/Or'. In the twelve years between 1843 and his death in 1855, Kierkegaard was prolific in his writings, with the majority of his philosophical work concerned with "how one lives as a single individual". He believed that each individual was responsible for giving meaning to their own life, and then living their life authentically. This is perhaps best summed up in one of his more famous quotes- "The crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die". Due to his work in this field, he is now typically considered the father of existentialism.
Now there's food for thought the next time you're sipping your coffee!