Caffe sospeso in Italian roughly translates to “suspended coffee” which is an over 100-year-old tradition that started in Naples, Italy with some customers who would order a sospeso whenever they experienced some good fortune, which simply meant that they would pay for two or more coffees while only consuming one, making a free coffee/s readily available for those less fortunate that visit the café.
This Neapolitan tradition saw a rise in popularity from the economic crisis caused by the second world war, but declined to only being practised at Christmas after the economic boom that occurred post its end, hence it’s seem understandable and perhaps even excepted with the resurgence of this custom of goodwill in 2011, with the current poor economic climate in the country. The revival was brought upon by many Italian festivals that aimed at seeking financial aid for the promotion of their events after facing harsh state budget cuts but also alongside began initiatives such as the suspended coffee network that encouraged communities to act in solidarity to support those in need, this eventually led to the declaration of December 10 2011 becoming the “suspended coffee day” by Neapolitan authorities.
Coffee bars that now partake in this caffe sospeso culture, have their clients place their receipts in a used coffee pot that continues to maintain the anonymity of the individual in this act of charity, kept on the counter it is easily accessible for the needy to grab and use.A good example being the century and a half year old Gran Coffee Gambrinus that has served royalty, presidents and even the Pope! In 2009 they presented an old and much larger Neapolitan coffee pot that was local and common in households in the region with its lid left open providing instructions and explanations in six languages about the concept of caffe sospeso. Currently from the average 1500 cups of espresso it serves daily, at least 10 of them are suspended by well-wishers.
The comfort of a warm beverage can warm not only the body but the soul as well, and the appeal of sharing one to help another only continues to grow, especially in Europe with Bulgaria its poorest country having 150 cafe’s participate in it alone. And according to coffesharing.com a site that helps keep the tradition growing has reported that at present 19 countries now contribute to the cause.
It is through word of mouth and the internet that this gesture of generosity has garnered so much interest all across globe inspiring many, including John Sweeney in the U.S. a plumber ,who was so inspired by the movement and its concept that on March 2013 he created the Facebook page “Suspended Coffee” with just a simple message that even something as small as buying a cup of coffee for a stranger, can change someone’s life and within just eight hours of the page’s inception, Sweeney’s received 20.000 likes and to date so far has influenced the purchase of over 15million coffees in 34 countries making Sweeney the English spokesman for the sospeso cause.
Caffe sospeso is a necessary glimmer of hope that continues to help us stay connected and united which we so desperately need, especially with the division amongst each other as present economic and social tensions rise. So share a cup and bring joy, as the old saying goes “shared sorrow is half sorrow and shared joy is double joy”.