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Giulia Olsson for Spectator

FIKA offers patrons the opportunity to create their own box of artisan chocolates, including flavors of goat cheese, Tabasco, and cinnamon.

FIKA is Sweden's contribution to the burgeoning Upper West Side coffee culture. This espresso bar-cum-chocolate shop takes its name from a native Scandinavian expression that loosely translates to a coffee break with  light-hearted conversation. 

Since crossing the Atlantic in the fall of 2006 and setting up shop in Central Park South, the artisanal masterminds have not looked back and now boast a spread of six separate stores, including a factory in Tribeca, where all of their chocolate is made. The latest outpost in world-renowned chocolatier Håkan Mårtensson's empire, FIKA opened on Feb. 23 in the Apthorp building on Broadway between 78th and 79th streets. 

Inside the shop, amid FIKA's minimalist, monochromatic decor, you can find coffee roasted in Brooklyn, an array of award-winning chocolates, and an intriguing selection of Nordic pastries and sandwiches. 

Mårtensson artistically redefines how customers think about chocolate. FIKA's many unusual and alluring combinations—such as chocolate morphed into miniature golden skulls or an unassuming truffle that tastes of Tabasco and cinnamon— may cause you to raise an eyebrow and test your taste buds. 

The shop doesn't brim with customers, but there is a steady flow of visitors inspecting this shop packed to the rafters with edible goodies. Outstanding mentions go to the internationally lauded quinoa hazelnut truffle, the “messy” chocolate cake (the name is something of a misnomer for a baked good in which brownie and cake meet halfway), and the semla, a wheat bun stuffed with almond cream. The philosophy posted on the company's website preaches sustainability, honesty, and fun, and FIKA certainly follows through with its personal, friendly service, albeit at a price that is a little beyond a student's budget. Chocolate truffles sell at $2 a pop, and the cakes and pastries hover around $5.

Where the store outdoes itself is in the casual gift department. FIKA is a great place to get a gift that promises life will be a little better following consumption. The classic option is to assemble your own assortment of chocolates. Try the goat cheese truffle if you're feeling intrepid (the combination is as delightful as it is unexpected), but if the lucky recipient of your gift happens to be lactose-intolerant, fear not, for FIKA has an entire wall of its shop dedicated to products that range from strawberry-vanilla jelly to handmade granola.

Despite its supposed coffee break ethos and its gift box approach to coffee and chocolate, FIKA is seriously lacking in the seating department, with approximately 10 seats, no bathroom, and no outlets.  Although FIKA does not invite customers to spend prolonged periods of time huddled over a laptop, you can still enjoy the warmth of your latte within FIKA if you're prepared to linger until a seat becomes available or visit during off-peak hours. 

But don't be surprised if you're gobbling down your hazelnut caramel truffle standing up. | @ColumbiaSpec

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