Hyvää päivää, hei, heipa, terve… there are many words in the Finnish language for hello, but when someone told them about cider, they just added an i and called it siideri.
I’m in Helsinki, a stop-over en route to the H2O music festival. As I arrive at the train station, I’m amused to be greeted by a bekilted bagpiper and an alcoholic skater dude, lying in the bus shelter. Welcome to Finland! I’m feeling quite pleased with myself for having navigated through the city to my friend’s apartment in the burbs. After very little sleep and travelling all morning, I’m determined not to waste the day by kipping and decide to head down the local Kauppi, to spend a weeks wage on pasta, camp cheese, dry bread and cider.
There’s a wide choice of ciders in the supermarket. I remember my first trip to Finland when I visited the train buffet car and found it had a real bar, with four types of cider! On an East Coast trip, I’m lucky if there’s a single can of Strongbow left by the time we reach Doncaster. Back in the Kauppi, I decide to mx it up a bit and go for two proper-looking ciders and two canned ciders. My first Finnish cider was a bottle of Blueberry Fizz. You can’t get much more Finnish than that! I’m rather tickled by the ‘Pantti-Pant’ label on the top of cans in Finland. Apparently it means refund, like they used to have on the old Barrs bottles.
I set up on my friend’s balcony, surrounded by pine trees and take a photo. I realise the Finnish snacks I have, can be arranged into a smiling face and add this into the photo. Minutes of fun and I try not to get distracted from the cider.
I sit back in the warm sun and watch the Finns quietly cycling past, and I open up the Fizz. Strangely, this brand comes with tin foil over the top, I don’t know what that’s about, perhaps a touch of class, like a bottle of champagne. It smells unbelievably appley. Like a boiled sweet appley. It can’t be real. I expect it to taste like a fizzy chew, and though its taste is not quite as sweet as its smell, it is bubblegum-like. And this is the dry. I should have gone for the extra dry, I could tell from the fact all the ciders were exactly 4.7% that they are manufactured within strict regulations and the Finns seem to need to be regulated. There’s no alcohol stronger than 5% in supermarkets and you have to hand in a CV and a urine sample at a counter to get anything stronger than that.
Though Fizz, owned by Olvi of Finland, claims to be 100% natural flavours, I’m getting a hint of toilet cleaner in this. There are a lot of ingredients shown on the can, which is unusual for a cider, and though it’s all in Finnish, they do have a Swedish translation too. I can see that apple wine, apple concentrate and natural aromas are added – ah, that will be the Shake and Vac smell. Checking out the Fizz website, I’m greeted by a crazy ‘Fizzing’ blackbird and some cans of Fizz sitting in a field with some ambient music. It might be more fitting for the bird to be lying in a bus stop, listening to bagpipes. The bird tells me that this Nordic cider (some Finns don’t like to be called Scandinavian), is all natural ingrenients. Fine, but is there any natural cider in there?
Looking at it objectively, it’s a pleasant drink, if you’re used to the Swedish cider style, but one has to assume Finns love sweet stuff, (and they do, just check out the Tutti Frutti megapussi in duty free). I’m not sure if this is aimed at the pissed-up skater dude, or at twelve year olds, but Fizz is not going to be in my Find 50 Ciders guide.