Caffè sospeso

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Container in a Naples cafe, where customers can place a receipt for a second unserved coffee, for a later customer to retrieve and claim

A caffè sospeso (Italian for 'suspended coffee'; pronounced [kafˈfɛ ssoˈspeːzo; -eːso]) or pending coffee is a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity. The tradition began in the working-class cafés of Naples, where someone who had experienced good luck would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but receiving and consuming only one. A poor person enquiring later whether there was a sospeso available would then be served a coffee for free.[1][2] Coffee shops in other countries have adopted the sospeso to increase sales, and to promote kindness and caring.


One 2010 account claims the tradition was over 100 years old, but declined during the postwar economic boom, so that it is mainly observed around Christmas time.[3] A 2008 article reported the tradition was obsolete, the reporter having visited three bars where it had not been observed for at least 15 years.[4] Aurelio De Laurentiis is reported to pay for ten sospesi after each victory by S.S.C. Napoli, the football club of which he is chairman.[5]

The sospeso gave the title to a 2008 journalism collection by Neapolitan Luciano De Crescenzo, Il caffe sospeso: Saggezza quotidiana in piccoli sorsi, which helped publicise the tradition throughout Italy.[2][6] The idea has been reported in cafés in Bulgaria,[7] Ukraine,[2] Australia,[1] Canada,[8] Romania,[9] Russia,[10] Spain,[11] Argentina,[12] the United States,[13] and Costa Rica.[14] The idea received a revival in Italy in 2011 with several small Italian festivals forming a Suspended Coffee Network to encourage solidarity in response to cultural budget cuts,[15] and a Dutch campaign at Christmas 2011 gave a discount on the price of the donated coffee.[16] In December 2011, Neapolitan authorities declared an annual "Suspended Coffee Day".[15]

In March 2013, John Sweeney launched a Facebook page for "Suspended Coffees", which by 2015 had led to the purchase of over 15 million coffees in 34 countries.[15]

The UK arm of coffee chain Starbucks signed up for a charity initiative based on the suspended coffee concept in April 2013, in which it said it would match the value of each suspended coffee with a cash donation to the Oasis charity.[17] The growth of the trend in other coffee shops in the UK also received media coverage around the same time.[18]

On 22 July 2013, a Tuesday, an anonymous customer in Edmonton, Canada, paid for 500 large coffees at Canadian coffee chain 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.[19]

On 10 September 2021, a Friday, an anonymous customer in Istanbul, Turkey, paid for 501 Turkish coffees at Turkish food chain Dönerci Metin Usta, the largest suspended coffee donation ever recorded in 100 years.

There are accounts of the practice reviving in southern Italy, and not just for coffee, as a response to economic hardship caused by the 2020 COVID-19 lock-down.[20]


The caffè sospeso has been identified as a symbol of grassroots social solidarity, prompting its revival in response to the 2008 recession and ensuing eurozone crisis.[3] In 2004, a giornata nazionale del sospeso at Easter was announced by the Ronde della carità charity.[21] In 2011, a Giornata del Caffè Sospeso was scheduled to coincide with Human Rights Day in December.[22] A collection of Italian arts festivals emphasising social solidarity in 2010 came together under the umbrella "Rete del Caffè Sospeso".[23] An Italian fundraising website started by Luca Argentero is called[24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dubecki, Larissa (21 April 2009). "Espresso: Coffee goodness". The Age. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  2. ^ a b c Zhuk, Alyona (21 February 2012). "Free coffee, anyone?". The Sofia Echo. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  3. ^ a b Scalzi, Mario (7 April 2010). "Italian Coffee Break part 1 — Paying it Forward in Naples". Access Italy. Archived from the original on 31 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  4. ^ W., R. "Caffè sospeso, tradizione "sospesa" a un filo Rischia di scomparire la tazzulella benefica". Corriere del Mezzogiorno Campania (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  5. ^ Eggleton, Pat (4 May 2010). "Buon Compleanno, Gambrinus". ITALY Magazine. istos srl. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  6. ^ Crescenzo, Luciano De (2010-10-07). Il caffè sospeso (in Italian). Edizioni Mondadori. ISBN 9788852014161.
  7. ^ Agence France-Presse (25 March 2013). "Bulgarian cafés get an Italian twist". News24. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  8. ^ "Un premier "café en attente" à Québec | Claudette Samson | Société". Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  9. ^ "Suspended coffee in Romania". getlokal. Archived from the original on 2015-02-10. Retrieved 2015-01-29.
  10. ^ Faustova, Milena (7 January 2012). "Coffee free of charge". Voice of Russia. Archived from the original on 2013-05-23. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  11. ^ "Cafés Pendientes | ¿Te sumas a la iniciativa del Café Pendiente? #CafesPendientes". 2013-11-07. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  12. ^ "Cafe Pendiente". Archived from the original on 2017-08-07. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  13. ^ "Portland joins suspended coffee movement". Retrieved 2013-05-01.
  14. ^ "Los ticos aprenden el arte de regalar café sin mirar a quién con el Café Pendiente". Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  15. ^ a b c Razavi, Lauren (17 December 2015). "Movement To Pay It Forward With A Cup Of Coffee Spills Into U.S." Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  16. ^ "Caffè Sospeso voor inloophuizen -". AT5 Echt Amsterdams Nieuws (in Dutch). 21 December 2011. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  17. ^ Reynolds, John. "Starbucks joins Suspended Coffee homeless initiative". Marketing Magazine. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  18. ^ "BBC News - Would you buy a 'suspended coffee' for someone in need?". 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
  19. ^ Davidson, Janet (2013-08-05). "Are we hard-wired to buy Timmies for hundreds of strangers?". CBC.
  20. ^ Jones, Bethan; Montale, Fabio (7 April 2020). "Opinion | Italy is Sending Another Warning". The New York Times.
  21. ^ "Oggi giornata nazionale del caffé "sospeso"". Nove da Firenze (in Italian). 12 April 2004. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  22. ^ "La Voce del Corpo di Luca Vullo in tour". (in Italian). 29 November 2011. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  23. ^ "Principi" (in Italian). Rete del Caffè Sospeso. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  24. ^ "1 Caffè" (in Italian). Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  25. ^ Fradelloni, Francesca (23 December 2011). "Una Iena più verde che nera. Intervista a Luca Argentero". Greenews (in Italian). Retrieved 2013-03-28.


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