Exploring Helsinki, Finland - The World’s Most Coffee-Crazed City And Country

12 min read OCT 02, 2023

Over the past several months many of you have followed along as we’ve ‘blog-traveled’ across the US, exploring some of our nation’s most well-known coffee communities such as Portland, Austin, Seattle, New York City, and more.

But today, as we continue this journey, we’d like to switch things up a bit and get a few more miles under our belt.

Today, we’d like to examine coffee culture in Europe…Helsinki, Finland to be exact.

While cities like Paris, France and Vienna, Austria most commonly come to mind when we think of coffee and Europe, complete with visions of small cafe tables dotting romantic city streets, the subtle evening glow of street lamps, and the feel of cobblestone underfoot, Finland outranks every other country in the world for one, delicious, decadent, smooth, and robust reason - coffee!

Did you know that Finland is the world’s largest per-person consumer of coffee? On average, Finns are said to drink 8-9 cups of coffee each and every day.

And Helsinki, Finland’s capital city, is the coffee city of this Nordic, European country.

But, before we delve further into what coffee culture looks like in Helsinki, let’s give this city, this country, a proper introduction…

- Finland is a northern European country, located in the Nordic region bordering Russia, with Sweden and Norway situated as the country’s eastern neighbors.

- This country is the most forested European nation, with more than 75% of the land in Finland being covered by a blanket of lush, green forest.

- Finland is ranked as the world’s happiest country. (Of course it is, they are the world’s leading coffee drinkers, remember?)

- Aside from the stunning forests in Finland, this country also contains more than 187,000 lakes, each of which measures more than 5,400 square feet. So, perhaps Finland’s nickname, “the land of a thousand lakes,” is more than a little understated!

- Children in Finland are doubly celebrated each year on/around their birthday, as it’s customary for Finnish youngsters to have two parties, one where they celebrate with family and one where they celebrate with friends. Adult birthdays, on the other hand, are generally informal and oftentimes only celebrated on milestone years such as the big 4-0, 5-0, etc.

- Helsinki is the coldest capital city in the nordic region of Europe, which is likely why this city is not only known for piping hot cups of coffee, but saunas as well. In Helsinki, saunas are said to be found in hotels, leisure centers, and even many office buildings.

- Built in the late 18th century and a proud example of European military architecture, Helsinki’s harbor entrance is a sea fortress. Consisting of nearly 200 buildings and 4 miles of defensive walls, this stunning beauty has been named a World Heritage site.

- Each year the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, can be seen more than 200 times in Finnish skies.

- Finland is sometimes called the home of the midnight sun as during the months of June and July the sun doesn’t fall below the horizon, causing Finns to have to endure sunlight all through the night during this time.

- If you’re traveling to Finland, the most common souvenirs folks bring home from this country are salted licorice candy, canned reindeer meat, and authentic glassware.

Oh, and we certainly can’t fail to mention that Finland is the one place in the world where you can meet the real Santa Claus!

But, before we skip the mall this Christmas season and hop on a plane to meet the real St. Nick, let’s get better acquainted with life in Helsinki as it pertains to coffee. (Gotta know where to get the best cup of coffee to bring to Santa, right?)

Have Filter, Will Travel…To Finland

Helsinki residents fall in line with all Finnish country folk, drinking 4-5, or as some reports declare, up to 8-9 cups of coffee daily.

And, most of this coffee is consumed at home, with filtered coffee topping Finland’s charts as a preferred method of brewing.

When making a truly fabulous cup of filtered coffee from the comforts of your own kitchen, we all know how important clean, pure water is to this process, and Finland is said to have some of the cleanest tap water in the world thanks to its abundance of clean lakes, rivers, and waterways flowing throughout the country.

But, unlike American coffee culture, which has evolved over the years to truly appreciate varying roasts, organic growing practices, artisanal brewing practices, and other specified niches in the industry, most Finns prefer cheap, bulk, supermarket coffee, with light roast being the preferred, classic, selection.

Despite their preference for cheap supermarket coffee, however, Finland truly has incorporated its love of coffee into all aspects of life, including home, work, and social settings.

While at home, we mentioned the basics above, namely that Finlanders prefer filter brewed light roast. But, should you arrive as a guest on the doorstep of any Finn, coffee-lovers will be pleasantly surprised to find that it is customary, some would even say mandatory in this country, to offer any and all guests a cup of coffee.

It’s even considered rude to refuse such an offer.

When serving, coffee is often poured into small cups for guests, and the sequence for sipping throughout your stay proceeds as follows: a small cup of coffee is offered, served, and when the host perceives that you’re nearing the bottom of said cup, you’re offered “santsikuppi,” or another round of coffee.

This process continues, seemingly without end, unless you know to ask for only half a cup with the above prompt.

While refusing another cup would be considered rude, asking for only half a cup when it’s time for a refill politely signifies to your host that this will be your last (half) cup.

And, don’t be alarmed should you find that your host/hostess doesn’t take a single sip of java while you’re enjoying yours, as generally the host is not allowed to drink coffee until they know each guest has had their fill.

At work, Finns can expect not one but at least two coffee breaks each day. It’s actually stated, rather mandated, in the collective labor agreement that Finnish workers must receive a minimum of two routine coffee breaks throughout their work day.

However, coffee breaks in Finland tend to look a bit different than here in the states…

In this Nordic European country, coffee sipping is serious business, and this often means coffee breaks are taken in silence. This is because in Finland social silence is highly acceptable, even the norm, whether you’re enjoying a cup with a colleague, friend, or family member.

In other social settings, coffee is enjoyed at nearly all celebrations and ceremonies.

In fact, it would be considered odd to not serve coffee at a wedding, funeral, birthday party, or other gathering.

Even better, Finns have very specific names or phrases for the times and social occasions where coffee is likely, or expected, to be served.

Aamukahvi is morning coffee.

Paivakahvi is daytime, or throughout the day, coffee.

Iltakahvi is evening coffee.

Läksiäiskahvit is farewell coffee.

Saunakahvi is sauna coffee.

Mitalikahvit is coffee that is to be enjoyed when a Finn has won a medal in a sport (medal coffee).

Matkakahvi is traveling coffee, obviously enjoyed while traveling or on the go.

And, vaalikahvit is election coffee, referring to the Finnish tradition where, once a citizen has cast their vote in an election, it is customary to go to a cafe and enjoy a cup of coffee and a bun, essentially a reward for participating in this freedom.

Then, as you can imagine, with coffee being central to everyday life in this country, Finns also have very distinct preferences when it comes to the vessels in which they sip their brew.

Moomin cups are very common throughout Finland, with many natives collecting these ceramic mugs featuring illustrations by designer Tovi Jansson.

Then, small, blue and white, thin handled ceramic mugs, likened to some fine china pieces here in the states, are common coffee sipping vessels as well.

Finns also use a specific type of mug for drinking coffee outdoors - a small, hand-carved, wooden, birch burr vessel known as a kuksa.

In many elderly homes, one’s favorite coffee mug or cup is used for everyday sipping, whereas fancier cups are reserved for serving guests. And, the everyday mugs are typically larger than what is used to serve coffee when entertaining company.

For guests, the small “fancy” cups almost always rest on a saucer, and these are referred to as pyhakupit, or holy cups. Yes, you read that correctly, holy cups…coffee sipping is a sacred thing in Finland!

So then, let’s move on to see how Finland’s capital city, otherwise known as the coffee city, has helped to shape coffee culture throughout the country.

Helsinki’s Coffee Community

Though filtered coffee reigns supreme in Finland, Helsinki, being the capital city, is by no means behind the times when it comes to coffee culture. In fact, Helsinki may be single-handedly turning the coffee tides for all Finns.

Helsinki is known as a coffee city, a “bucketlist spot” for travel bloggers, influencers, and coffee enthusiasts throughout Europe and the world, as it’s the home of many trendy and superior quality cafes and coffeehouses where baristas continually increase in knowledge concerning the coffee industry as a whole.

Helsinki’s baristas spend a great amount of time honing their coffee craft, preparing espressos, espresso based drinks, pour overs, and more, working hard to make sure the city lives up to its reputation.

And, within the capital city, even outside of cafes, locals here look past the cheap supermarket aisles for quality and variety in their sipping experience. Some even claim Helsinki’s culinary industry is aiding in shaping the entire country’s coffee future as their focus on sustainable, local, and seasonal ingredients is now flowing over into the coffee community as well.

Another part of what has shaped (and continues to shape) Helsinki’s coffee culture are the city’s micro roasters.

Within the capital city are some of Finland’s top coffee roasters, including Svante Hampf’s Kaffa Roastery, one of the highest rated roasters in the country.

In fact, their cafe is touted as a must-try for all Finns and foreign visitors alike.

Svante Hampf’s cafe is said to house some of the country’s best baristas serving truly amazing coffee, roasted fresh, in-house as the roastery is physically connected to the cafe.

Another top roaster in Helsinki is Good Life Coffee. This roastery is run by Lauri Pipinen, a local coffee master. Good Life Coffee roasts beans for some of the best brews served throughout the city at numerous cafes.

Aside from these top roasters, the cafe scene in Helsinki is extensive, home to trendy cafes, cozy coffee shops, and some of the most desirable coffee destinations in the world.

So, to close out our time today, we’d like to give you a tour of some of Helsinki’s top cafes. If you’re able to travel to this magical land of verdant green forests, freshwater lakes, and coffee, be sure to check out any one (or more) of these highly recommended coffee hot spots!

1- Kaffa

Yes, this is the roastery we mentioned above. However, it is an overwhelmingly popular choice for all.

Visitors and locals explain that as you exit the tram in the Punavuori district, you are greeted with the heavenly aroma of artisanal coffee wafting from the cafe, otherwise referred to as the scent of the gods.

Kaffa specializes in dark espressos and other handcrafted coffees, and most visitors enjoy watching the roasting process take place through the cafe’s floor to ceiling windows.

The relaxed atmosphere also allows locals to enjoy a mug or two while their beloved pooches rest at their feet.

2- Levain

Also located in the Punavuori district, Levain is known for their egg custard tarts (pastel de natas) and their cappuccinos. One traveler insists Levain’s pastel de natas paired with an oat milk cappuccino is “to die for.”

Levain even supplies other brews for the few Finns or visitors who prefer tea over coffee.

3- La Torrefazione

Located on Helsinki’s main shopping street, La Torrefazione was one of the first cafes in the capital city to have a truly serious take on serving coffee, as this coffee house views serving its customers as an art.

This location, in particular, has a strong reputation for serving truly great coffee, in all forms and fashions.

Its sister location, Fratello Torrefazione, specializes in siphon filtered coffee. And, their third location, also named La Torrefazione, is known for its urban, yet spacious atmosphere where you can enjoy tremendous tasting coffee high above the city’s architecture in the city center.

4- Moomin Cafe

The Moomin cafe is dubbed a great place for coffee lovers with kids. Here, the hippo-like creatures artistically created by Finnish children’s author Tove Jansson are featured on mugs and artwork…including latte art.

Children can enjoy the play area at Moomin, complete with puzzles and swings, while adults can sip on lattes served aside the cafe’s famous cinnamon buns before selecting a bag of flavored coffee to take home and enjoy.

5- Paulig Kulma Cafe

This contemporary cafe consists of an onsite roastery and barista institute.

Run by Finland’s largest importer of coffee, Paulig Kulma specializes in microlot and single estate coffees, showcasing the future of Finland brews as they transition from mundane grocery aisle selections to a broader understanding of the world of coffee - rich in history, flavor profile, health benefits, and more.

A few of the imported selections here include beans from Uganda, Kenya, Honduras, and Guatemala.

6- Kaffecentralen

Calling all espresso connoisseurs! Kaffecentralen is actually a Finnish company which specializes in both espresso and espresso (and other coffee) machines. Each of Kaffecentralen’s three stores include a cafe where customers can sip espresso, brewed coffees, or teas.

Their cafes are known for having some of the most reasonably priced espressos in the city, and customers are often wowed by the expertise of the properly trained baristas manning the smoothly run espresso bar counter.

7- Cafetoria

With an emphasis on quality, Cafetoria is one of Finland’s original Third Wave Coffee cafes.

Locals and tourists alike are in love with Cafetoria for the atmosphere, which is bright and cozy, the location, as it’s a common stop before reaching the Temppeliaukion Church, and of course, its coffee!

With an ever-changing rotation of flavors and roasts, Cafetoria has something for everyone.

They generally have three choices of their lighter roasts which are commonly enjoyed as one-batch brews or pour overs, and they also offer espressos in a lighter roasted Arabica coffee or a darker Italian style robusta.

8- Kahvila Sävy

Serving Good Life Coffee, locals rave about Kahvila Sävy.

Located on the eastern side of Helsinki in a small area complete with vintage boutiques and trendy restaurants, this cafe has been dubbed cozy, relaxed, and retro, seemingly mirroring popular cafes in Reykjavik, Iceland.

When you stop in, be sure to grab one of their famous cinnamon rolls and an espresso or one of their single estate, high quality coffees, evaluated as the best 5% in the world!

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Espresso.

Headshot of Becky Livingston Vance
Becky Livingston Vance Content writer

Becky is a mother, educator, and content writer for Lifeboost Coffee. She has had three years’ experience as a writer, and in that time she has enjoyed creatively composing articles and ebooks covering the topics of coffee, health and fitness, education, recipes, and relationships.


Drop a Comment

All comments are moderated before being published