Coffee with a Social Conscience
25 June 2013 at 10:43 am
The humble cup of coffee doesn’t claim to solve the problems of the world but it can provide a few minutes of solace to help people face the day, especially when it comes with a social conscience.
Tea lovers may disagree but this is the idea behind the growing Suspended Coffee Movement which is experiencing rapid success in Australia and across the globe.
The simple idea of paying for a coffee and leaving it ‘on hold’ at the local cafe until someone less fortunate redeems it, started in Italy many years ago but is only now taking off more rapidly in Australia.
This different concept of giving is a ready form of social inclusion: someone goes into a cafe, bakery, restaurant and pre-purchases a coffee or food. This is then a 'suspended coffee'.
Someone in need can then go into the business and ask if they have any suspended coffees.
They are then provided with the warmth and nourishment of a cup of coffee at no cost to themselves.
Suspended Coffee Movement Australia Director Maureen Watts said she wanted to get the idea off the ground in Australia when she grasped the extent of the movement, some time after being in Italy.
“I knew that it was such a nice, kind-hearted gesture and I thought, ‘why can’t I make it happen?’” she said.
Watts started to spread the word by setting up a website and facebook page.
She said she has been overwhelmed by people’s interest.
“I was just amazed by the response,” Watts said.
“[It works for people] even just to sit down for a few minutes and feel like they have a sense of normality,” she said.
“We can’t determine what someone’s need is.
“It’s not necessarily someone who is homeless and you also can’t judge by the way they look.
“Sometimes a cup of coffee is just the sustenance and kindness to keep you going.
“It is actually not people who need coffee; it is people who need kindness.”
Melbourne’s De Alleyway Espresso owner David Lao said his cafe was one of the first to get involved in the suspended coffee movement in the city that prides itself on high quality caffeinated brews.
He said the generosity of the customers at De Alleyway was overwhelming as he had more people paying for suspended coffees than people redeeming them.
The cafe also suggests people used their ‘free’ coffee on De Alleyway’s loyalty cards as a suspended coffee, meaning the cafe itself will donate one in 10 coffees to the cause.
“I guess coffee, in a way, is quite a small thing,” Lao said.
“It is more of a psychological thing, it boosts people up, they know people care.”
Watts said the movement had been well received by cafe owners and customers but there had been a few concerns raised about people taking advantage of the program.
“I think they are going to be few and far between and karma will take care of them,” Watts said.
“[Cafe owners] have the right to manage the situation.”
Watts is no stranger to the Not for Profit sector, founding her own organisation, Big Little Lives, a charity that is very close to her heart.
She also works in the corporate sector.
Despite her busy life, Watts’ vision for the Suspended Coffee Movement is simple.
“I would just like to see as many cafes taking part as I can so we can help as many people as possible who are in need.”
Cafes can access posters and vouchers to show customers they are involved in the movement.
Get involved here.