In some cafés around the world, you can ask for a “suspended coffee”. It works in this way: when you go to a café and get a coffee for yourself, you can also buy one for another person… That you do not know at all! The staff at the café will save the bill of your suspended coffee or add it to their list, and the next person who comes to that café and asks for a suspended coffee, will get a free cup of coffee, offered by you.
The origins of the suspended coffee
The suspended coffee is a custom that originated in a Southern Italian city: the charming Naples. There, offering a suspended coffee or asking for one at a café (a “bar” in Naples) has been a tradition since the second half of the 19th century. This tradition is one of the ways in which Neapolitan life philosophy manifests itself.
The suspended coffee is an act of generosity towards someone who is less lucky than we are, made nobler by the fact that the recipient is a total stranger. Almost anyone can afford to offer a suspended coffee, at least in Naples, where an espresso coffee can cost as little as 0.90 euros. However, not everyone has enough money to get a coffee for themselves. The suspended coffee was invented so that also those people could enjoy one of the most basic daily pleasures for a Neapolitan: a cup of hot espresso coffee, sipped in the span of a couple of minutes while standing at the counter of a café.
The suspended coffees initiatives around the world
On 10th December, Italians celebrate the Giornata del caffè sospeso (Day of the Suspended Coffee). Indeed, the custom of the suspended coffee has spread to the rest of Italy, over the last few years. Now, also in Rome and Milan there are cafés that proudly display on their windows posters to inform prospective customers about this initiative.
Luckily for everyone, the initiative is not confined to the Italian border. The Suspended Coffees movement was born a few years ago, and many cafés around the world have adhered to it: in Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Mexico, the United States and others.
The Italian “caffè sospeso” is translated in English mostly as “suspended coffee”, but one can also find the variant “pending coffee”. Many countries have come up with a translation of the term in their national languages:
- in Germany it is called aufgeschobener Kaffee
- in Spanish-speaking countries they refer to it as café pendiente
- in Portuguese it is café pendente
- the Swedish call it bjudkaffe
- in Turkey it is askıda kahve
- in Russian, they refer to it as подвешенный кофе
Depending on where in the world you like to enjoy your coffee, feel free to accompany it with a slice of quiche lorraine or to have it with some rice pudding at the end of a hearty meal. Read our articles to learn linguistic and historical facts about these dishes.
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Written by Maria Bruno, Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit. She holds a master’s degree in Translation and a bachelor’s degree in Italian Language and Literature. She is trained in websites and social media management, content writing and SEO. Currently, she is studying for her Diplôme Universitaire in Terminology at the University of Savoie-Mont Blanc.