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Suspended coffee

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5


To explore how buying a cup of coffee can help to build a community.

Preparation and materials

  • Note: The film used for this assembly features adults with learning difficulties. It is vital to view it in advance and prepare students so that the focus is on the subject that the participants have chosen to explore rather than their learning difficulties.
  • Have available and the means to show the short film (less than three minutes) at: Alternatively, use the précis given in Step 1.


  1. Recap the key points from the film or use the précis below, as required.

    The Pulse in Sittingbourne is a community café offering suspended coffee. This is a scheme allowing customers to purchase a ticket that is kept by the café so someone in need can come in and have a paid for cup of coffee at a later time.

    Other drinks, food and even whole meals can be suspended in this way, enabling the less well off to enjoy the benefits of the community café.

    The scheme’s benefits were summed up by one participant: ‘It’s nice for people to come into the café and meet friendly people and chat to them and it also helps people with keeping warm.’

  2. Point out that other cafés run similar schemes, including the Starbucks chain. Ask the students if any of them have seen examples locally.

  3. It is a relatively new phenomenon in many parts of the world, but it first came about in the working-class districts of the Italian city of Naples, where espresso drinking is popular. 

    It is thought that the tradition may date back about 100 years in Naples, but no one knows for sure. It has seen a revival and has spread to become a worldwide phenomenon following the eurozone crisis and the downturn in the world’s economies.

  4. Suspended coffee is a good example of individuals and communities taking small steps to help others. As the Pulse café visitor quoted above said, ‘it also helps people with keeping warm.’ Perhaps she meant more than simply not being physically cold. Suspended coffee is a way of spreading human warmth in its widest sense, of reaching out and sharing. In a small way it says that we are all bound together, dependent on each other. That’s quite a big theme and an impressive achievement for the price of a coffee! 

Time for reflection

Suspended coffee helps to build communities and show that we are all dependent on each other. Can this principle be applied elsewhere? Can you think of other goods and services that could be ‘suspended’ in this way?

Suspended coffee has grown and spread during the economic crisis. It’s a simple idea based on individuals thinking about the needs of others. Are there lessons to learn if better economic times come?

Publication date: March 2014   (Vol.16 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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