Suspended Coffee: the Italian tradition that has conquered the world

In Naples, coffee is an icon, an excellence, an art. It’s a way to remember that the joys of life must be shared, because when a pleasure is shared it multiplies – just like when friends enjoy a coffee together!

Suspended Coffee is a philanthropic and supportive tradition that began born in Naples, Italy. Over the years it has spread beyond the Neapolitan borders, to become a social custom that unites the four corners of the globe. It’s a practice that’s as curious as it’s beautiful, which hides a profound meaning of generosity and social inclusion.

In a nutshell, Suspended Coffee consists of paying for two coffees while consuming only one. The remaining espresso is the ‘Suspended’ one, which is donated to the next customer to come.

It’s an act of kindness towards others, without any personal gain, which has the sole purpose of giving a smile to the rest of the world. The receiver of the Suspended Coffee can be anyone: someone who cannot afford to pay for their own, a student who is going to take an exam, a worker during his well-deserved coffee break or all those who need a regenerating break!

Suspended Coffee often becomes a real chain of solidarity: many receivers decide to reciprocate, in turn, paying for to the next customer’s coffee, thus creating a succession of selfless acts.

The history of suspended coffee

The origins of Suspended Coffee are uncertain. According to tradition, it all began in Naples during World War II. In fact, in times of economic crisis, when a person was particularly happy or willing to celebrate something, he drank a coffee. Then, they paid for another one for an ensuing customer, or for somebody who couldn’t afford to buy their own.

Other sources trace the origins much farther back, but the story always begins in Naples. Whenever friends met at cafes or bars, after paying the bill, the change is given to the bartender, to provide a free coffee for the next customer.

Anyone could enter a cafes or bars to see if a Suspended coffee was available and even when the answer was ‘no’, it was quite common for bartenders to serve them a real Neapolitan espresso regardless.

Suspended coffee around the world

These days, the Suspended Coffee, tradition has spread all over the world. You’ll find it in cafes and bars from Bulgaria to Ireland, from England to Spain; in France, Belgium, Greece and Finland; in Canada, Russia and Argentina.

In Argentina, in particular, the custom has further developed by mixing it with local specialties to become “Empanada pendiente”. In participating restaurants, every time a client pays a “Suspended empanada”, the restaurateur undertakes to donate one.

Curious facts about suspended coffee

  • From bars to solidarity: Suspended Coffee has extended its scope to embrace other goods, both food and non-food, with the ultimate aim of helping those in most need. Networks of voluntary associations use this act of solidarity to provide hot meals, clothing, books – in fact, everything people choose to donate.
  • Associations: In Italy and across the world, there are several networks that take their name from this custom, all aimed at promoting simple acts of daily kindness.
  • In Italy, December 10th is  “Suspended Coffee Day“.
  • Corby Kummer, the most famous food writer in the United States, editor at The Atlantic and author of ‘The Joy of Coffee’, spoke about this all-Italian habit and advised American coffee chains to add Suspended coffee as a cash item.
  • New York Times: the popular American newspaper has published an article all about Suspended Coffee

If you want to take part in this beautiful tradition, look at coffee shop windows! The majority of participating bars display an identification sticker to indicate their participation in the initiative.

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