Suspended coffee: what a wonderful idea

Customers pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can’t afford one - it's a simple concept which should be introduced to coffee shops in the UK

Share
Related Topics

This unseasonal cold snap is enough to make anyone reach for a hot chocolate.

Fortunately, it’s easy enough to get our numb hands on one. Coffee outlets litter our streets – in fact, rumour has it you’re only ever 10 feet away from a Starbucks in London. Or is that a rat? I get confused.

But as chilly students layer on thermals and commuters wait on freezing platforms for delayed trains, I ask you to spare a thought for the homeless. Sometimes a hot beverage is beyond their reach, the pennies collected in an empty cup not quite stretching far enough.

Public opinion on giving money to the homeless is divided. Some refuse to toss a few pennies into their pots for fear it will be spent on alcohol and cigarettes. Others disagree and give as generously as their purses allow. Once I even saw a woman present a shivering man with a sandwich and a packet of crisps.

Enter the ‘suspended coffee’, a humble tradition which started in Naples, Italy and has since become popular in Bulgaria. Customers pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can’t afford one. It’s a simple concept which has been embraced by many and now people are clamouring for UK coffee shops to introduce the scheme.

The suspended coffee accentuates the very best of human nature. I discovered the idea on Facebook, as I walked to work on a bitterly cold Wednesday morning, and my mood lifted immediately. I imagined a busy shopper or rushed commuter stopping and donating a warm drink or sandwich to someone less fortunate than themselves and realised it was something we needed to introduce in the UK.

But is it something us Brits would embrace? Or are we too embroiled in our own financial worries?

I put the question out to my Facebook friends (mainly skint students or slightly less skint graduates) and received a mixed response.

My housemate, a student, said she wouldn’t buy a suspended coffee at the moment, but it was something she’d like to think she would do if she had a job. One kindly soul told me she’d bought a cappuccino for a homeless person before, but welcomed the initiative as it was an easier, less awkward, way to do it. Someone else told of bad experiences with people asking him for money to ‘buy a hot drink’, however he liked the idea of ‘earmarking’ the money to make sure it went towards something beneficial, like a drink or a sandwich.

One friend simply rejected the idea, pronouncing it ‘socialist claptrap’.

Costa Coffee’s Facebook page is covered with requests imploring the company to consider the initiative. One plucky user even challenged the company to match their patrons’ kindness by contributing one suspended coffee for every one donated by a customer.

After all, it costs the branches nothing but good will. A number of people even claimed they would buy more coffee if it meant they could do a good deed each time.

I contacted Costa to ask whether they would be introducing the idea. 

A spokesperson said: “The suspended coffee initiative is a really nice idea. We always welcome feedback from our customers, so we have taken on board all the comments and have passed them on to our operational team to review.”

A predictably flaky response from a press officer, but the right sentiment is there. Pret a Manger have posted a similar reply on their Facebook page, while a spokeperson for Starbucks said: “We think that Suspended Coffee is a really interesting campaign and we’re looking into it."

Would I buy a suspended coffee? I’m not sure I have the money make it a regular occurrence, but I imagine I could donate a coffee every now and again, when my budget allowed. Maybe I’d factor in a couple of suspended coffees into my monthly budget.

Best of all, the scheme means anyone who’s sniffy about where their money ends up after it lands in the paper cup can rest assured it will go towards something positive. It’s difficult to make a case against that. Mr and Mrs Snotty who won’t give money to a man on the street, in case he buys cigarettes, can’t justify not buying him a coffee. And I like that. I really like that.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking EY...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHER WE CAN HELP ...

Lead FE Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, jQuery, Knockout)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead FE Softwa...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed for Se...

Day In a Page

A view over Rotherham  

The Only Way is Ethics: There are many dangers in a story as complex as the Rotherham child sex scandal

Will Gore
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor