Celebrating the Tradition of Caffè Sospeso

Tue, 12/10/2013 - 06:06

December 10 marks “Caffè Sospeso Day” in Italy, to be celebrated on the same day as Human Rights Day.

A caffè sospeso (suspended coffee) or pending coffee is a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of generosity and solidarity. The tradition began in the working-class cafés of Naples, where someone would order a sospeso, paying the price of two coffees but receiving and consuming only one. A poor person inquiring later whether there was a sospeso available would then be served a coffee for free.

The caffè sospeso has been identified as a symbol of grassroots social solidarity, prompting its revival in response to the 2008 global recession. A number of cultural events including readings, plays and festivals emphasizing social solidarity came together in 2010 in Italy under the umbrella "Rete del Caffè Sospeso," which is now promoting its Caffè Sospeso Day initiative for the third year. In 2011, the Giornata del Caffè Sospeso was scheduled to coincide with Human Rights Day.

Coffee shops in other countries have adopted the sospeso tradition. The U.K. arm of coffee chain Starbucks for example 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.