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Random Acts of Kindness Flow with “Suspended” Coffee

by Meredith Mullins on April 25, 2013

man drinking large coffee after receiving a random act of kindness of a suspended coffee

Coffee warms the heart and spirit
© Fuse Collection

Starting the Day Off Right

“I’ll have a decaf espresso, a caffe latte, a double decaf cappuccino, and a caffe sospeso.”

This could be a scene from LA Story, a barista’s nightmare, or a reminder of how coffee drinking has taken us into a labyrinthe of choices.

It could be all those things . . . but in this instance it’s an order at a coffee shop, sprinkled with a random act of kindness.

Caffe Sospeso: “Suspended Coffee”

The hidden gift in this order is caffe sospeso, an Italian tradition born in Naples that is taking hold around the world.

Caffe sospeso is not an extravagant new coffee concoction. It means, in literal translation, “suspended coffee.”

In practice, this custom is a heartwarming “pay it forward” story. When people buy a coffee, they pay for an extra coffee (or two).

This suspended coffee “offer” then waits for someone in need, someone who asks if there are any suspended coffees available because he or she can’t afford to buy one.

man drinking european coffee after receiving a random act of kindness of a caffe sospeso

Good to the last drop
© iStockphoto

Cafés use a coupon system, bottle caps, or tokens to keep track of the available suspended coffees. They post a suspended coffee sign in the window to let those in need know a hot coffee might be available through a stranger’s generosity.

A Cup of Coffee for All Humanity

The suspended coffee idea is a reminder that we can help people who are less fortunate in many ways—modest or mighty. An important Oh, I see moment.

The original Neapolitan proverb said it best—”This is a way to offer a cup of coffee to all humanity.”

Man in furry hood drinks coffee after receiving a random act of kindness of suspended coffee.

Hot coffee makes winter life in the street a little warmer.
© iStockphoto

This coffee “movement” has now taken root from the UK to Bulgaria to Australia to the U.S. Word is spreading that this tradition is a simple way to offer kindness to strangers.

The “Suspended Coffee Supporter Facebook page has more than 76,000 fans and keeps people updated on cafés that are joining the caffe sospeso community (or, if you’re in Taiwan, the “suspended noodles” community).

Pay It Forward

The beauty of this kind of movement is that it inspires other acts of kindness. Grocery stores and restaurants are also following this path. Spontaneous “pay it forward” moments are becoming legendary in many countries.

  • People pay for the next person in line at a drive-in.
  • A man performs 65 random acts of kindness on his 65th birthday.
  • An 8-year-old boy opens a lemonade stand to help a neighbor whose house was damaged in a storm.
  • A competitor carries her injured opponent over the finish line.

The stories are (thankfully) endless.

In a time when bad news often seems to outweigh the good, random acts of kindness can help to shift the balance and make us feel good again about humanity.

The gift can be as simple as a cup of coffee.

Hot coffee warms the soul . . . for the one drinking and for the one who has given an anonymous gift. A little kindness can go a long way.

hands holding coffee and cigarette after a random act of kindness with a suspended coffee

The French version of suspended coffee: café en attente
© Meredith Mullins

If you like the idea of suspended coffee, talk with your local coffee shop and start the coffee flowing.

And, if you’d like an extra random act of kindness, take a look at this video. It’s not coffee-related, but it will sure make you feel good.


If video does not display, watch it here.

Today is International Pay It Forward Day, so visit the Pay It Forward Foundation site to see what you can do. 

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


5 thoughts on “Random Acts of Kindness Flow with “Suspended” Coffee

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