Suspended Coffee

Author: Italian Good News

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…

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 cafe.

Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes comes in through the door and kindly asks:

Do you have a suspended coffee?


Photo: A man giving a coffee to a homeless person


The economy may be failing and taxes may make the common man weep. But none can accuse the Italian of not having a generous heart. The tradition began in the working-class cafés of Naples, where someone would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but consuming only one. A poor person who inquired later would then be served a coffee for free.

Historically, right after the war, many people lost everything. In Italy coffee is not considered a treat, but a basic human right. So the gentlemen who could still afford to have one, paid for two: the other for the less fortunate peer. The donor and the recipient would remain anonymous to each other to protect their generosity and pride.

Coffee shops in other countries have adopted the sospeso to increase sales.The idea has been reported in Eastern Europe, Australia, the United States and Costa Rica. On July 22, 2013, an anonymous customer in Canada paid for 500 large coffees at Tim Hortons. This started a trend that spread to a total of 30 locations with over 10,000 cups of coffee being paid for by donors.

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