For the first in our series exploring souvenirs closer to home, we visit the Scandinavian haven of Budin in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
If you’re fascinated by Scandinavian crime thrillers like I am (I whipped through the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels in record time) you might have picked up on an interesting detail– the characters in the books are often drinking coffee. I was curious– did the frequent coffee references stem from the cravings of sleep-deprived crime novelists or were they a larger reflection of Nordic culture?
While you’d have to ask a Scandinavian that question, one thing’s for sure– Sweden has a lot of coffee shops. In fact, coffee breaks are so popular that Swedes even have a word for it, fika. Fika is another one of those words that has no exact English equivalent, but it’s basically a coffee break with snacks (tasty ones like cinnamon buns).
But you don’t have to go all the way to Sweden to experience fika, you can find it right here in the US. From Seattle to Minnesota to New York, you’ll find pockets of Swedish culture all over America, brought by the immigrants who settled there.
In my home city of New York, Swedish coffee shops seem to be a new trend, with new ones popping up all over the city. But only one Nordic cafe offers a little Scandi shopping along with that coffee– Budin, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Budin: the Most Expensive Latte in New York
Before we look at Budin’s Scandi shopping, we need to address what Budin is really known for. Last year when Budin first opened, it was the favorite subject of click bait headlines everywhere, earning the dubious distinction of serving New York City’s most expensive latte (a whopping $10 a mug). But Budin didn’t just inflate the price of a standard latte– it created an entirely new different kind of latte. Called the lakkris latte, Budin’s licorice-flavored concotion is fussed over by its expert staff, prepped with fancy imported ingredients like Danish raw licorice powder and black licorice syrup. We decided to give it a taste test.
My lakkris latte was definitely delicious, with a distinct licorice flavor that tasted natural, not artificial. Was it worth $10? Sure for a treat, but I don’t think I would buy them everyday.
But you don’t have to spend $10 on a coffee to enjoy the Scandi atmosphere at Budin. Budin is one of the few New York cafes that serves coffee made with beans roasted in the Scandinavian style. Yes, I too was surprised to learn that there is such a thing. Apparently Scandinavian roasting is much lighter than what you’ll find in the US– and a lighter roast means a bigger caffeine jolt.
Shopping Budin for Scandinavian Souvenirs
After your caffeine buzz, browse the ample collection of Nordic goods at the back of the store.
Take home some Scandinavian coffee and licorice.
The sky-high prices also add to that authentic Scandinavian feel. $220 Icelandic pancake pan anyone?
My friend (and fellow Scandi-obsessive) Kristina models hand-knit mittens.
While I loved checking out Budin’s interesting collection of high-quality Scandinavian goods, ultimately I left empty-handed– the prices were just too steep for me.
Even though I didn’t bring a souvenir home this time, one of the reasons I love exploring other cultures at home is that they can serve as the inspiration for future travels. After lingering over fika and being reminded of how much I loved my last trip to Sweden, I started plotting my next trip Nordic trip (on deck: a first trip to Norway and a return visit to Iceland).
*I realize I use Scandinavian and Nordic interchangeably here, but Scandinavia most often refers to Sweden, Norway and Denmark and Nordic usually refers to those countries as well as Finland and Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands– and probably a few other islands I’m forgetting.
Do you have a favorite place to enjoy Swedish culture at home? Tell is about it in the comments!