Caffè Sospeso

Tough economic times and growing poverty in much of Europe are reviving a humble tradition that began some one-hundred years ago in the Italian city of Naples. It’s called caffè sospeso — “suspended coffee”: A customer pays in advance for a person who cannot afford a cup of coffee…

“It was a beautiful custom,” he recalls. “When a person who had a break of good luck entered a cafe and ordered a cup of coffee, he didn’t pay just for one, but for two cups, allowing someone less fortunate who entered later to have a cup of coffee for free.”

The barista would keep a log, and when someone popped his head in the doorway of the cafe and asked, “Is there anything suspended?” the barista would nod and serve him a cup of coffee … for free.

Suspended coffee is making a comeback in European countries like Spain and France where pre-paid coffee is becoming, according to NPR, a “symbol of grass-roots social solidarity at a time of mounting poverty in what, until recently, were affluent Western societies.”

Suspended coffee has also made its way to the U.S. as well, though not everyone thinks it’s a nice idea.

Photo: LWY


5 Comments / Post A Comment

Vicky (#2,266)

This would be amazing….but SO taken advantage of by cheap jerks.

chic noir (#713)

I use to be a big fan of the consumerist, that’s before the comment section became a cesspool of youtube and NYPost trolls.

I think suspended coffee is a wonderful idea but like the commenter above, I would hate for people who can afford it to abuse the system.

lizard (#2,615)

its a quick nice way to give back but in america our homeless culture is probably a lot different than a picturesque village in italy.

thecoffeestain (#1,483)

It’s a lovely sentiment and I think it would work. Start it at alternative coffee houses and go from there. It may never pick up in the mainstream, but it certainly would be a hit in the independent scene.

As for those people who abuse the system or who are cheap jerks? Personally, I think that the majority of people would honor that system, with the exception of a few bad apples (and if those bad apples made regular appearances at the coffee house, then who’s to say they can’t be banned; it’s happened before, and will happen again).

cmcm (#267)

I think it’s a sad that everyone’s first thought is that people would abuse it because they’re jerks. I think the type of places that do suspended coffee are probably more independent/ community-focused, and I have to believe that for the most part people tend to honour that ethos when they go there (if this was offered by Starbucks it might be a different story).

There was a thing about this on the BBC website a few days ago as well, btw –

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