The “suspended coffee” is a Neapolitan custom, once very lively in the social tradition of Naples, then gradually out of use. Having a coffee at the bar is a simple daily moment, for many people granted, but unfortunately not everyone can afford it. Right for this reason in Naples was born the beautiful practice of suspended coffee: in order to give an espresso to the neighbor without even knowing the identity. An act of solidarity very cheap, about 1 euro, but that can improve a stranger day.
How does it work? When you order a “suspended coffee” in a bar, you are going to pay for two coffees, even if you only receive one: your own and another for anyone who will ask for it. In this way, if a needy person comes into the bar, he/she can ask if there is a suspended coffee and if so, he/she receives the drink offered by the first customer. This practice is linked to the idea that happiness must be shared. As well as being good for others, in fact, it is a way to make others participating to your joy. It was used in the bars of the city especially when a person was particularly happy or had something to celebrate.
How did this tradition come out? It is not certainly known in which bar it was born or in which historical periodi it spreaded, for sure at the beginning of the XIX century because of the first itinerant coffee makers. There are some hypotheses.
According to some, it was born in a period of big economic crisis, during the Second World War. During those years of conflict, “luxuries” such as coffee at the bar were difficult to find and solidarity was manifested also in this way.
Other theses affirm that it would be created, always in Naples, for goliardic reasons. In fact, at the moment of paying for coffee, enormous disputes arose between groups of friends and acquaintances who met at the bar. Confusion and indecision about who had to pay, in addition of accounts that did not add up, often brought customers to pay more than they should. But they, instead of asking for the rest back, left it there for the benefit of others.
This generous practice went out of the borders of Naples and Italy itseld. Many European countries, and beyond, have adopted this tradition, born in the name of solidarity. Many bars wanted to resume this act of kindness in order to bring to light one of the most important traditions of Neapolitan culture, joining the initiative and often expanding offer to the whole breakfast!