Odd but beloved, this drink has a distinct, sweet taste that might surprise you.
Sweden is a land of odd tastes sometimes but nothing comes close to the oddity that is Kaffeost. An unlikely duo of hot coffee and a dried cheese from Finland. Leipäjuusto translates to ‘bread cheese’ but we can assure you that no bread is involved in the process. To make the cheese, milk—once reindeer milk, now often goat or cow milk—gets curdled, baked, and dried into thin rounds. The bread comparison comes from the cheese’s absorbent quality as it soaks up liquid. For that reason, it’s also called squeaky cheese because of the sound that fills your mouth as your chew.
Traditionally made from reindeer milk, but more commonly made from cow’s milk in the modern day Leipäjuusto is lighter and sweeter than the standard cheese and when made with dark coffee is supposed to taste very similar to just adding milk and sugar. The preparation of the Kaffeost isn’t long-winded. It’s simply an act of adding a cube of the appropriate cheese to the bottom of your mug and pouring boiling coffee over the top. It’s also essential to let it soak for a few minutes before fishing them out and eating them separately. The absorbent nature of the cheese means that it takes on the coffee flavour easily and borrows some of its roasted finish so it tastes more like smoked cheese.
Although the correct cheese is hard to come by since it’s typically a Scandinavian delicacy, there are some guidelines you can follow if you want to try this yourself. Stick with a cheese that’s high on natural sweetness and most importantly its porosity. If you choose something that’s hard and inflexible it won’t take on enough liquid to blend the flavours.
Cheese and wine are an iconic pairing for their polar opposite palates and Swedish Cheese Coffee logic is much along those same lines. While it may seem like an oddity to us, to the people of Sweden, Finland, Norway and even Russia, this coffee concoction is a time-honoured ritual that is shared in the cold winter months with friends and family.