I’ve heard and read about various acts of kindness in human history, this “caffe sospeso” is the cutest of them all.

“Caffe Sospeso” simply means “suspended coffee.”

A suspended coffee is the advance purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who needs it, no matter why. But it really is about so much more than the coffee.

It can provide physical comfort, conversation, a smile or even a laugh, and a sense of belonging. A suspended coffee can change lives, sometimes even save them.

Wow! Isn’t that interesting? You can just enter a bar, tired, pale and broke, and ask for a coffee, if available, to quench your thirst or fill your stomach. Rather, you can just be the donor, buy three cups, take one and keep two.

A suspended coffee can be for anyone. It can be for the homeless man you pass every day on the street, a stressed student in the middle of exams, or a mom who needs a five minute break.

It is not up to us to judge who is in need. If someone asks, then they are in need. It helps remind us that no matter how alone you may feel, there is always someone somewhere who cares.

Being alone is the scariest thing in the world, and our desire is to brighten those dark days of loneliness and fear. Yes, it’s just a cup of coffee, but it’s about more than the coffee!

“The notion of café customers paying for “caffe sospeso” (“suspended coffees” or “pending coffees”), drinks that can later be claimed for free by less fortunate patrons, is something that has been described as an old Italian tradition in various news and Internet accounts, although we can’t say how old or widespread the practice might actually be inside or outside of Italy.”

THE ORIGIN: “Right after the war, many gentlemen had lost everything they had, and couldn’t even afford coffee.

“Now, being that black hot liquid pleasure not considered a treat, but rather a basic human right in the life of any Neapolitan, those gentlemen who could still afford to have one, took a habit of paying for two: one they drank, the other was credited, to be had by the first less fortunate peer who would casually walk in the bar.

“The bartender would then say: ‘Would you like a coffee, sir?’ Which meant: there is a coffee paid for you, if you can’t afford one. The donor and the recipient would remain anonymous to each other, to protect generosity, pride, and the pleasure of coffee beyond hardships.”

But then, it took the social media as far back as 2013 in Germany when a lady reported on Facebook, which later gave birth to a Movement promoting the initiative called Suspended Coffee;

“We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we’re approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter:  ‘Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended’ They pay for their order, take the two and leave.

I ask my friend: ‘What are those ‘suspended’ coffees?’  ‘Wait for it and you will see.’

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers — three for them and four ‘suspended’. While I still wonder what’s the deal with those ‘suspended’ coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks ‘Do you have a suspended coffee? He got it and left.’

It’s simple – people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who cannot afford a warm beverage.

The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.

The spirit and ambition of the Suspended Coffees movement is supported by thousands of cafés around the world, places that are at the hub of local communities, serving suspended coffees (and more) and sharing goodwill and compassion every day.

STILL IN PRACTICE? More than 150 cafes across Bulgaria have joined a goodwill initiative modelled on the Italian “caffe sospeso” tradition, which literally means “suspended coffee”, according to a Facebook page devoted to the movement.

Most cafes that decide to join the “caffe sospeso” initiative – which has been covered extensively on television – have posted pictures of payment slips issued for free coffees on the Facebook page.

Someone Posted: “Super! The first ‘suspended coffee’ at our place is a fact,” one user registered as Ethno Bar Red House said on the “Suspended Coffee in Bulgaria” page. Some cafes use a pot of small cards or bottle caps to count the number of coffees already paid for, which can later be claimed. Apart from cafes, several fast food places and grocery shops have also joined the Bulgarian initiative, proposing that their clients buy someone a loaf of bread or a snack.


In a somewhat similar vein, 1,468 customers at a Starbucks outlet in Newington, Connecticut, reportedly engaged in a “pay it forward” system during Christmas week in 2013 (although they were essentially taking turns paying for each other’s orders rather than purchasing coffees solely for the benefit of the less fortunate):

Nearly 1,500 customers “paid it forward” at a Connecticut Starbucks this week, footing the bill for the drivers behind them in line at the drive-thru window.

You can be an advocate of this idea. And as the Suspended Coffe Movement put it “we invite you join our journey as we change the world, one cup of kindness at a time.”

However, it can be used for more than just coffee. You could buy a hot bowl of nourishing soup, a filling sandwich, a cold drink, fruit, bread, or a full meal.

Because of its simplicity, the suspended coffee idea makes it easy to duplicate with other food items. When you donate a suspended item, you’re not only satisfying a person’s immediate need, you may also be helping to restore their dignity.

No one should ever feel alone in the world. Unfortunately we’ve all felt that way at one time or another. Suspended Coffees believes that everybody matters and deserves to be cared about.

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Author: Taofeek Ayeyemi