The Scandinavian Coffee Drink That Features A Bite Of Cheese

The world has no shortage of unique coffee drinks. In Vietnam, Ca Phe Sua Da, a combination of coffee, condensed milk, and ice, is served as a cold treat for scorching days. Italians enjoy caffè corretto, which combines a shot of espresso with a shot of liquor (usually the Italian wine grappa). Culturally unique as these two drinks are, they don't stray far from long-standing, coffee-friendly additives; sugar, milk, and even alcohol are fairly commonplace for the modern coffee drinker. But what about the more unique additions to your cup of joe? 

Dairy is generally considered a standard addition to coffee — milk and creamer are commonplace, and a knob of butter is not unheard of — but what about cheese? We spread it on crackers or melt it onto our burgers, but does it taste good in coffee? Scandinavians say yes, and since all of the countries of Scandinavia — Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark — are among the top ten coffee-consuming nations in the world (per CBI), if they say coffee and cheese is a winning combination, then we're going to believe them. 

The harmony of Kaffeost

The combination of coffee and cheese is called kaffeost, and according to Coffee or Die Magazine, the drink originated with the indigenous Sami people of Arctic Europe, also known as Lapland. When coffee arrived in the region in the late 1700s, the Sami fell in love with it just as their southern counterparts had. The cheese comes to play in part because of the Sami's history as reindeer herders. 

Koffeeost is made with juustoleipä, or bread cheese, which was originally made using reindeer milk. As wheat was not a viable crop in the Arctic tundra, and juustoleipä has a consistency that's quite similar to bread (because it's baked instead of aged), the Sami used the semisoft cheese in the same way many cultures use bread i.e., as a receptacle for butter or honey — hence the name. As no salt is added, juustoleipä cheese is not salty like cheddar; instead, it's sweeter cheese, which can come as a surprise to first-time kaffeoast drinkers, per Coffee Affection

So, is cheese and coffee crazy? Of course not! It's not like you're plopping morsels of moldy blue cheese into your coffee. Rather, the juustoleipä is more like adding marshmallows to hot chocolate. According to Atlas Obscura, juustoleipä absorbs the strong coffee without melting away, providing the brew an added layer of richness and the drinker with a gooey mass of slightly sweet cheese. And though juustoleipä today is made from either cow or goat's milk, the experience of kaffeost remains a truly Scandinavian ritual, harmoniously combining indigenous ingredients with a great cup of strong coffee.