The Untranslatables: #3 Tretår


When you think of typical coffee lovers, who springs to mind? Italians? New Yorkers? George Clooney? Well, you may be surprised to learn that according to the Telegraph, on a worldwide scale, it is in fact the Scandinavian nations who consume the most coffee. Who knew?

Of these countries, Sweden ranks a mighty 6th (just one away from my adoptive home nation, Switzerland!). With an annual coffee consumption of 8.2 kg per capita, the Swedish have effectively proven themselves to be coffee-lovers through and through. And when you poke your nose in a little further, you learn that the country has developed a whole culture around this passion!

The traditional ‘Fika’ (loosely translated as a social meeting for drinking coffee and eating cake) is of course a staple of this culture. But a slightly lesser known aspect is the ‘Tretår’.

Made up of the words ‘Tre’ (three) and ‘tår’ (a small amount of liquid – in this case coffee), Tretår refers to a refill of coffee. But not just the first refill, the second one.

A second second-helping of caffeine, or a ‘threefill’, if you will.

This may seem like a heck of a lot of Joe, only accessible to the particularly sturdy of heart, and yet it would appear that it’s more common than you might think.

Several sources suggest that a first coffee refill (påtår) is standard practice and free of charge in Sweden (a theory to be tested during your next holiday!). Indeed, it would appear that this cultural love of caffeine is the reason behind Ikea’s ‘free refill’ policy (so not just the fact that the shop is so massive then).

A fun addition to this spot of learning is that Swedish coffee is traditionally a little stronger than the standard brew, making the Swedish true masters of both caffeine consumption and handling the jitters, as well as fun word creation.

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