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.