Winter has arrived in South Africa. We have just started to accept the fact that the days are getting shorter and getting up in the dark, cold mornings is something we just have to suck up and do. But luckily for many of us we have a warm house to wake-up in and a fresh cup of coffee is nearby to warm our bellies and give us that boost to get through the day.
For others, winter mornings are unbearably cold and there is no warm cup of coffee in reach to warm up their belly and wrap their frozen hands around. This has been the reason for the latest concept going viral on social media platforms of late. An idea called Suspended Coffee, which aims to give a cup of coffee to those who really need it.
A Suspended Coffee is a cup of coffee paid for in advance by someone when they are buying their own coffee. That coffee is then ‘suspended’ until someone comes along who would love a nice cuppa Joe but can’t afford one or just needs a pick-me-up. The idea has been going on for many years (some say since before world war one times) and originated in Naples, Italy. In the past few months it has somehow made its way onto social media and spread its way across the globe.
This lovely idea has made its way to South Africa. We have all shared the post on Facebook, chatted about it on Twitter and said what a lovely idea it would be – if only we could do it in South Africa. There are of course, the sceptics. Those that say it will never work in SA – ‘we just have too many people who will take advantage of it’ or ‘how do we really know our Suspended Coffees are making their way to the right hands?’
Another sceptic thought is whether this is just a way for the coffee shops to double their coffee sales. Charlys Bakery in Cape Town posed the question on their Facebook page and asked their customers if they would take part. One such comment from Nham Lee says, “I would support this scheme if the retailer charged only half the price for a suspended item so that I am assured it’s not a scheme for them to profit out of the goodness of others – kind of like a match funding thing.”
While there are always the naysayers, this particular concept seems to be greeted mostly by a positive response. Out of nearly 500 comments on Charlys Bakery Facebook status, the vast majority were in support of the cause.
So far I found two coffee shops in Cape Town who have started this campaign – Haas Collective and Bolo’bolo, and one corner shop in Greenside, Johannesburg.
“I cannot remember exactly when we did the first suspended coffee but it was soon after we opened. Quite a few of our clients would buy two coffees and offer one to a less fortunate person,” says Francois Irvine, manager at Haas Collective. “This is not limited to coffee. Some clients would buy two sandwiches or two slices of cake and ask us to distribute it accordingly.”
“The response has been great and is definitely growing. It just makes sense to share goodwill by giving a needy person a hot cup of coffee or a delicious sandwich rather than just giving money, which could be used for any manner of unhealthy habits,” says Francois.
At Haas Collective, they take charge of distributing the Suspended Coffees by handing out vouchers to people they see out and about. This ranges from young people struggling to older people who need cheering up. They are then able to come into the shop with their voucher and pick up a piping hot cuppa Joe or delicious sandwich. For the people who are unable to make it to the shop, such as the elderly or disabled, they take a meal to them wherever they are.
“We probably only get around 10 Suspended ‘Coffees’, if that many. We actually don’t have as many as I would have imagined with all the hype going on at the moment. It is still mostly our long standing regular clients who buy these Suspended ‘Coffees’,” says Francois.
The corner cafe on Gleneagles road in Greenside is taking the Suspended Coffee idea a little bit differently, mainly because they don’t actually sell coffee. They have a small jar next to the till where you can drop in some of your extra change, they then use that money to help out the guys in need on street – a packet of chips or a cold-drink is what they could get.
“The ‘trend’ may get bigger or die out completely but the actual concept will never end,” says Francois. “Wherever there is goodwill, one can expect a gift of generosity. I can honestly say that Haas has a huge amount of very kind and generous clients and these are the real stars who share their generosity with others. We just help facilitate this beautiful gesture.”
Hopefully more businesses across South Africa will adopt this concept, less out of the fact that it’s a current trend and more because it is a great way to do something good. A way to brighten someone’s day, to pay it forward in a sense.
What do you think? Can this idea work in South Africa?
Do you know any other businesses getting involved in Suspended Coffees?