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What’s “hanging coffee”? And why you might want to order one

Barrista offering two coffees

Farknot Architect | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 08/29/23

This wonderful tradition started in Naples, and it really is a true act of kindness.

There was a recent post on social media about customers in a local coffee shop ordering a “hanging coffee.” It garnered a lot of attention and the idea, which has spread from Italy, is now being practiced farther afield.

You might be wondering what is meant by hanging coffee (or “suspended coffee” as it is also known). If you’re imagining dripping coffee cups hanging from the rafters of the coffee shop, then you have it wrong. As the post explains, the principle is that when you go for your regular order, you also add x amount of hanging coffees to your bill.

These hanging coffees are kept on a sort of tab for anyone coming into the coffee shop who needs a hot coffee but lacks the means to buy one for themselves. The barista is able to serve this person a fresh brew, courtesy of the client who bought a spare in advance.

A Neapolitan tradition

The tradition started in Naples as far back as 100 years ago, when a customer who’d had a bit of good fortune would offer a caffè sospeso for someone in need. In 2011, an annual day was put on the calendar to honor suspended coffee in Naples. Thanks to social media, the practice has spread throughout the world in the last decade.

Of course, the practice doesn’t have to stop with coffee — you might want to pre-pay for a sandwich or other snack in your local coffee shop or restaurant. Regardless, this gesture allows us to carry out a completely random act of kindness, gifting the most vulnerable among us a little taste of normalcy as they go about trying to get by.

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Acts of KindnessCharity
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