I don’t drink coffee. Which seems to shock Swedes. People are kind of taken aback when I tell them. I usually just politely decline or ask for some water. But after being asked repeatedly by the same people I will eventually let the cat out of the bag. I don’t drink the black stuff. This is a big moment in Sweden. Reactions can vary. Some people try to be supportive. Others are disturbed and want nothing to do with me. Still others pretend like it’s ok but never look at me the same again. But in the end most people have a similar reaction. They are shocked and follow my admission with some sort of snide remark about how it’s just a matter of time.
It’s not that I haven’t tried. I have. I actually think it smells pretty good as it’s brewing. But I can’t do it. It’s too bitter. Pushers try to get me to try it with milk, cream, sugar, flavoring. But still it tastes like coffee. Then they try to push the fancy little drinks that cost 45 SEK for something the size of a shot of vodka. They tell me it won’t taste like coffee. But they lie. They just want someone to have that nasty coffee death breath with. But it won’t be me. I’ve even tried it when drunk thinking that my taste buds would be dulled and I could handle it. I was wrong.
It’s actually not just coffee, I’m not a big hot-drink person. I like hot chocolate, and I like glögg, which is a glorious Christmas time alcoholic drink that usually involves a good party and plenty of shenanigans. At least in my family. And that’s about it. No tea, not hot apple cider, no hot toddies. It just doesn’t do it for me. Anyway, Swedes aren’t exactly used to that mindset. Maybe it’s the cold that forces them to suck down hot drinks all the time. And the darkness that forces them to always get their next caffeine fix. Or maybe they are all just addicts.
In reality though coffee seems to be used as some sort of social lubricant, kind of like alcohol just without the chance of vomiting in someone’s lap, or dancing in someone’s lap for that matter. It gives people a reason to meet up aside from the ever important fika, and, more importantly to the Swedes, it gives them something to occupy their time when the conversation hits that awkward silent part. And there’s a good chance it will.
When I told my cousin in Stockholm that I didn’t drink coffee she was shocked and then asked me what I drank when I went out with friends as if cafes and restaurants only served coffee or coffee variations. I manage quite alright without slurping down liter upon liter of Swedish coffee. Although, sometimes the restaurants get a little carried away with the coffee thing.
I’ve even had someone tell me that since I was in my twenties and grew up in the US it wasn’t surprising that I didn’t drink coffee. As if all twenty something Americans don’t drink coffee. I didn’t even know there were stereotypes that Americans in their twenties don’t drink coffee. I have clearly led a sheltered life.
A few restaurants offer lunch time buffets where you get food, salad, and coffee at the end. Great deal right? But they won’t let you trade the coffee for a regular drink. I’ve asked. Multiple times. At multiple restaurants. And it’s always the same answer… tyvärr. As in, sorry, why the hell don’t you just drink the coffee like a normal person. But I don’t. And I won’t. And I’m ok with who I am and the choices I have made.