Helsinkians? Helsinkinites? Helsinkinese? I never did learn what the collective noun was while I lived there for a month. Well, regardless… I learnt that the people of Helsinki know how to slow down and savour the time to catch up with each other over tea, coffee, hot chocolate… whatever their choice of drink. I was told Helsinkians [patent pending] were the highest consumers of coffee per capita, so I was dubious I would find anywhere to drink good tea that I could report back home about. But I soon discovered, this didn’t necessarily mean people sought out good coffee. Most of the time they seemed to be drinking filtered coffee or assam tea, which was readily available at every café counter. More importantly, I think it was about opting for a beverage that kept them warm, could be drunk frequently throughout the day without that bloated, tired feeling which too many flat whites can do. (Or perhaps that’s just me?)
So I came to really appreciate the time to relax, recoup, reengage over a beautiful cup of tea whilst the temperature was negative two outside. And I’m sure this attachment would have only become stronger as the days got colder and shorter. During my frequent visits to teahouses and cafés, I was most often outstayed by nearly everyone in the room. This was even taking into account the hour it took for me to feed my seven month old baby and myself!! There was no rush, no quick fix. It was about the time spent with friends, conducting interviews, working on a laptop, keeping warm indoors. So if this was the way things were, then why would I waste my time over a less than average tea? I certainly wouldn’t do that with my choice of wine. Not surprisingly, it did not take me long to seek out some beautiful teahouses in Helsinki and continue to learn from the locals, by keeping warm indoors. My favourites were: Thé Huone (www.thehuone.com), The Ounce (www.ounce.fi), and Johan & Nyström (www.johanochnystrom.se/en).So this is how I will remember my time in Helsinki; short, cold days with great long conversations, delicious cinnamon buns and delightful warming “tees”.