A Neapolitan tradition: “the suspended coffee”

A Neapolitan tradition: “the suspended coffee”

Coffee is not just a beverage but a central element of Italian culture, particularly rooted in Neapolitan tradition. However, behind this everyday practice lies a fascinating story: the tradition of “suspended coffee.”

But what exactly does “suspended coffee” mean? Essentially, it is an anonymous gesture of generosity. In 2017, the renowned Neapolitan writer Luciano De Crescenzo dedicated a book to this practice, titled “Suspended Coffee: Daily Wisdom in Small Sips.” This work collects the best of his articles, blending Greek philosophy with anecdotes from everyday Italian life.

The urban legend associated with Neapolitan coffee tells of ordering one coffee and paying for two, so the second one is available for whoever comes in later. But this gesture goes beyond mere charity; it’s an opportunity to share a moment of pleasure.

While not mandatory for all bars, this custom is making a comeback. It is said to have originated in the working-class bars of Naples during World War II. In those difficult years, paying for two coffees was a way to express solidarity with those who couldn’t afford it.

Suspended coffee has become a symbol of social and popular solidarity. Its revival was encouraged by the global recession of 2008. In Italy, cultural events and initiatives like the “Suspended Coffee Network” have helped revive this tradition.

Today, this practice has spread not only in Italy but also to other countries. In 2013, even Starbucks in the UK participated in a charitable initiative based on the same concept.

But how do you leave a suspended coffee? The tradition has expanded beyond Naples, spreading worldwide. The Gambrinus coffee shop in Naples reinstated this practice on its 150th anniversary in 2010, inspiring others to follow suit.

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