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The Suspended Coffee Movement Is Taking Off Around The World
April 27, 2013
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A simple act of generosity that started in a coffee shop in Naples, Italy is spreading around the world.

It's called 'Suspended Coffee' - if you haven't heard about it, the idea is simple.

At participating cafes, you can pay for your own coffee as well as a second one, which can then be claimed later by someone in need.

In Italy, 'Suspended Coffee' or "Caffè Sospeso" had been around for 100 years but saw a surge in popularity after the Second World War.

Writer Luciano de Crescenzo, author of 'Il caffè sospeso: Saggezza quotidiana in piccolo sorsi' (Suspended Coffee: Daily Wisdom in Small Sips) tells NPR about its origins.

"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."

Baristas would log the purchase and anyone down on their luck could ask "is there anything suspended?" and if yes, would get a free cup of java.

Over the past couple of years, coffee shops in countries around the world started to pick up the tradition.


Social media campaigns have brought the idea to people's attention and the Suspended Coffees Facebook page, founded this past January, already has nearly 80,000 likes.

The practice is spreading some say, because of the tough times faced by some European countries who are deep in debt.

16 countries (including Ireland, Australia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Romania) and hundreds of coffee shops worldwide are currently involved. Small stores have embraced the movement, with big chains a bit slow to catch on - although there is a movement to try to get it started at Starbucks.

On these shores, Quebec's Tam Tam Cafe is taking part - joining the movement earlier this month. CBC Radio in Montreal has a story about it right here.

'Homegrown Hamilton' in Hamilton, Ontario has thrown its support behind the initiative as well.

Manager Mike Pattison tells the Toronto Star, "It's a fantastic initiative so we decided to help out. We had been pretty much been doing it anyway, just not under a banner."

However, not everyone is on board. As The Star points out, an editorial in Consumerist, criticizes the idea on several levels including the possibility it could result in "greedy, cheap jerks" taking advantage of others good will.

We're not that cynical. As the BBC puts it, no one has to "prove anything to claim one", it just "relies on the good faith of everyone involved."

Also in Canada, the "Pour It Forward" movement has sprung up, with people paying for the coffees of random strangers behind them in line at Tim Hortons drive-throughs.

Winnipeg is said to be the record-holder for the most coffees poured forward. In December, 2012, their streak hit 228 orders.


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