It wasn't until the late 18th century that North Americans really started drinking coffee, 300 years after Africa and the Middle East. And in Canada specifically, it was William Cooper that opened the first coffee house in Toronto, in 1801.
So as you look across the Canadian landscape, you will undoubtedly see a coffee shop on nearly every corner, Canadians drink a lot of coffee. But how do we fair against other nations?
Coffee consumption is measured as pounds consumed nationally, divided by total population. So the 'per person per year' stat includes non-coffee drinkers too.
In 1st place - Finland, with 26.5 lbs per person
Eight or nine cups a day is the norm in this frigid, Northern country. Where temperatures can get to -40C/-40F regularly, you can understand why everyone needs warming up multiple times a day. Coffee is a very social activity in Finland, and it is often served with cake.
Like many of the Nordic countries, Finns have a strong preference for very light roasts, from Cinnamon to City roast, and have only recently started to adopt espresso based drinks. Finland is also the home of the Moomins, and has been voted the Happiest Country in The World multiple times!
I chatted with David Nakkila, arguably Halton Hills' best known Finn, to get his thoughts:
"I grew up noticing that coffee was a big part of my family. Any family gathering of any kind, no matter how short, always included coffee. I think that the amount of coffee consumed in Finland relates back to the lack of sunlight during the Winter. Some days they may not get any sun, but most days they only have a few hours, and that is typically when they are at work or in school. So naturally, drinking a lot of coffee helps to keep them up.
Coffee to me personally though is something that I had to grow into. Because it was around me so much at a young age, I almost felt like I didn’t want to drink it. As I got older though I started to appreciate and enjoy coffee for it’s taste and enjoyment and now I have 2-3 cups a day on average."
2nd - Norway: 21.8 lbs per person
The birthplace of the World Barista Championships, Norway comes in second. Although with some similarities to Finland regarding geography and climate, coffee drinking didn't really take off until the late 19th century. Being ruled by Denmark at the time, Norway could get its expensive coffee supply duty free due to Denmark's control of the Virgin Islands. Heavy taxation on alcohol also helped make coffee the social drink of choice.
3rd - Iceland: 19.8 lbs per person
I think I'm starting to see a trend. Long, dark, cold days make me want multiple cups of coffee too. Iceland's coffee industry is focused on small independent coffee shops, supplied by small, local roasters. Espresso and milk based drinks are more popular in Iceland than in Finland or Norway, and decaf is rarely served in cafes.
4th - Denmark: 19.2 lbs per person
By fourth place, we are down to ~3.5 cups per person per day. In Denmark, coffee is an essential part of the day, as there is always time for a "kaffepause", whether spontaneous or organized. Danes are also focused on health and wellness concerns, as coffee is also consumed for its therapeutic qualities.
5th - Netherlands: 18.5 lbs per person
The Dutch have been involved in the coffee business for a very long time, starting in 1616, when Dutch merchant Pieter van den Broecke managed to obtain (possibly stole) some live coffee plants from Yemen. After the plants thrived in the botanical gardens in Amsterdam, the Dutch used them to begin coffee cultivation across their colonies, and became the main suppliers of coffee to Europe.
6th - Sweden: 18 lbs per person
Coffee in Sweden is more of a concept, than just a drink. "Fika", as it's known, roughly translates as, "a coffee and a cake break". It is considered essential to make time for fika every day, including making time for friends and colleagues.
Like the coffee culture in other Nordic countries, coffee is a social activity, consumed many times a day, and usually with a sweet, baked treat. I think we can all agree that taking time to slow down and appreciate the good things in life is a great idea!
7th - Switzerland: 17.4 lbs per person
Taking a break from all the filter coffee loved in the Nordics, the Swiss tend to prefer espresso based drinks, darker roasts, and drinks with low acidity. They also love ‘caffè crema’, which is made using a long pull espresso using a coarser grind.
8th - Belgium: 15 lbs per person
Like the Dutch, another colonial power with access to coffee from Africa was Belgium. Unfortunately a century of exploitation and violence has scarred the Democratic Republic of Congo deeply, and the coffee industry there is only just recovering.
After WWII, coffee was very expensive in Germany, so was smuggled across the Belgian border, where it was much cheaper. Many people died smuggling coffee through the Aachen Forest.
There is even a statue to commemorate the smugglers.
9th - Luxembourg: 14.3 lbs per person
Luxembourg may only be 1,000 sq miles, but it is one of the richest countries in the world, with a very high quality of life. A questionable banking industry and myriad of tax loopholes don't stop the locals from enjoying the best coffees around!
10th - Canada: 14.3 lbs per person!
And here we are, in the Top 10! In fact, the only non-European country in the top 10. Is it because we share a climate with the Nordic countries? Who knows.
Canadian coffee drinkers tend to drink about 2-3 cups per day, which even though we make the list, is significantly lower than Finland's 8-9 cups a day.
Some facts about Canadian Coffee Consumption:
- Canadians consume more coffee than tap water!
- Canadian coffee drinkers consume an average of 2.7 cups per day.
- In 2020, 29% of coffee drinkers bought a coffee using a drive-through in the past week, compared to 18% in 2019.
- More people are now making coffee at home (87%) in 2020, compared to pre-covid (78%).
- 'Ready to Drink' coffee in a bottle or a can has doubled in popularity over the past five years, to 5% of coffee consumed.
- Coffee is listed as one of four 'healthy drink choices' by the Canada Food Guide
- Canada is 15 places above the USA when it comes to coffee consumption. America comes in at 9.3lbs per person, in 25th place. Go Canada!
- There are around 4,000 Tim Horton's stores in Canada, nearly 1 per 10,000 Canadians. It used to be Canadian until 2014 when it was bought by Brazilian investment firm 3G, for $12.5B.
So who else didn't make the Top Ten?
When it comes to coffee consumption per person, apart from the USA in 25th place, other notable absentees are Italy, in 13th place, Brazil (the world's largest coffee producer) in 14th place, and France in 18th place.
Coffee sales generally go up in the winter months, so there is a definite correlation with colder weather and hot drinks consumption. This could be why the USA lags behind Canada, with Southern states opting for soft drinks over coffee, and also why we have more in common with our Nordic friends.
For this article I tried to work out my own consumption. Here goes:
- 2 x coffees a day: 25g x 2 = 50g per day
- 50g x 365 days = 18.25kg
- 18.25 x 2.2 = 40.2lbs
Interesting! Bear in mind that the per capita numbers in the top ten are national averages, and therefore include people who don't drink coffee. Phew!