While catching up with Italian friends last month, Jett Mahmud and Declan Jacobs found themselves on the topic of ‘suspended coffee’ (or caffè sospeso), a century-old Italian tradition in which one ‘pays it forward’ and purchases a second coffee in advance for someone less fortunate.
The very next day, the pair launched a social media campaign that has since drawn the support of over 40 cafes across Melbourne in an effort to revive a humble, charitable gesture that began decades ago in Naples. “We started the Suspended Coffee Facebook page with the hope that we could make a difference and with everyone’s involvement it looks like we are starting to achieve this,” says Jacobs.
A suspended coffee may not be a meal or a shelter for the night, but there’s something about a warm coffee in your hands that can be comforting and uplifting, especially in the cold, wet months of winter. This simple act of charity is a humble means of expressing generosity in a situation where donors and recipients rarely come into contact.
With The Mission Café in Prahran one of the first to jump on board, barista Victoria McDowell says the suspended coffee movement has helped to integrate less fortunate individuals back into a more general social setting after years of feeling otherwise excluded.
“We haven’t had any recipients order takeaway coffees, they have all sat inside the café and it’s great to see them interact with each other and other customers,” McDowell says.
Having raised a staggering 120 suspended coffees in just the first 10 days, at the time of this interview The Mission Café boasted a total tally of 180 suspended coffees readily available for those less privileged. McDowell admits however, spreading the word that there are suspended coffees available is a little more challenging.
“It’s just about getting the word out there. We work very closely with the Prahran Mission next door and Open House drop-in centre upstairs, so we have a lot of groups and individuals visiting from there,” she says.
McDowell is excited at the prospect of suspended coffee inspiring other simple acts of generosity. Running the soup kitchen behind Prahran Mission, McDowell says she hopes to implement suspended $3 meals in the future.
“It’s really working,” she says. “One guy came in and bought 10 suspended coffees.”
To find out your local participating cafes or to become one today visit the website here.