Join France for Suspended Café and Baguettes
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Tags: Baguette suspendu, Café suspendu, caffe sospeso, Paying forward, suspended coffees
Essentially suspended coffee is a simple concept … a customer pays for a coffee for someone less fortunate — a pay-it-forward custom that reportedly started in Naples — and le patron chalks up the tally on a blackboard so anyone who needs warming up can lay a claim to the generosity. The movement is slowly spreading around the world mainly driven by social media and citizen groups with a strong commitment to social solidarity.
Latest to join in the charity mood is the well-known Paris website My Little Paris which lamented an apparent shortage of festive coffee generosity in Parisian cafes and expressed the hope that the pay-it-forward concept, recently arrived in the Paris region at Chez Syringa, 14 Place Charles de Gaulle, 93260 Lilas would soon spread around the capital.
“When you next order your morning coffee — serré, allongé, crème, noisette … remember to ask if you can add a ‘suspendu‘ says My Little Paris, alluding to these anonymous acts of kindness spreading round the world.
But My Little Paris appears to have been unaware of just how much coffee solidarity had already caught on in other parts of the country. Indeed the idea has sparked several ‘suspendu‘ spin-offs that include baguettes, pastries, sandwiches, kebabs, bakery leftovers, and even books, while the worthy Belgians of Ixelles (near Brussels) are paying forward with suspended frites.
Recent reportage on France’s LeJournalduSiecleTV shows how the idea is catching people’s imagination: Le phénomène du «café en attente» la solidarité au quotidien -
Writing about how the suspended coffee idea has caught on in Rouen Hervé Lionnet of the French news agency AFP reported: “With the approach of winter, solidarity is taking on the enticing perfume of hot coffee. Across France, coffee shops are offering customers a chance to pay for an extra small black coffee for a stranger in need. The idea, driven by the Internet and social networks, first appeared in France a few months ago under the moniker ‘café suspendu’.
“Looking at ‘Occupy’s’ Facebook page in March Stéphanie Dupin, who works with Rouen groups involved in youth rehabilitation, was quickly won over to the idea. She spoke with her neighbour the owner of the café-restaurant ‘Le zèbre à pois’ in the city centre.
“This took off very quickly and upto now we have been able to offer more than 200 suspended coffees,” says café owner Olivier Lenoble. Apart from the homeless who started to come in from the start, Mr. Lenoble says he has been able to provide hot coffee to pensioners on a modest income or to students, the eternally penniless.
“The movement has spread in recent months from Brest to Bayonne, Bordeaux, Nantes, Mulhouse and Carcassonne and has branched out to embrace other outlets.
“Two small Puy-de-Dôme bakeries have launched ‘baguette suspendu’ because says Jean-Manuel Prime, a state employee in Clermont-Ferrand who created the logo: ‘The symbolism of bread is very strong in France’.
“The baguette is a daily staple and cheaper than coffee. And the system is very simple to implement,” says Noël Capron, owner of one of the oldest bakeries in Bordeaux (founded in 1810) and a big fan of suspended baguettes.
“Small traders have either joined the movement spontaneously or after being approached by others spreading the idea says Christine Bunel, a grassroots activist in Evreux. ‘I think its a movement everyone can identify with, it’s a small pebble thrown into the pond and its ripples reach out to boost the work of grassroots and social welfare organisations,’ she says.
“There are now sandwiches, kebabs, pastries … and even ‘repas suspendu’ (suspended meals) launched in Mulhouse by David Petit, who works in a local DIY outlet. Under this scheme a customer pays for a second meal and receives a ticket stamped with the price range available. He can offer this to someone else personally or to an association. ‘We already have more than 100 tickets in the pipeline and 60 restaurants are members,’ he says.
“Michael Feron, a bookseller in Rouen, has added books to the suspended collection. He asks for a two euro donation from bookbuyers. ‘Then a person can choose a book and claim it as a ‘livre suspendu’. If it costs more than two euros I put in the difference,’ he says.
“Places of entertainment, toys, clothes … the concept has plenty of room for expansion. To coordinate the movement ‘Tout en attente’ (all suspended) was set up in Nantes while at Lilas near Paris, another coordinating group has emerged under the name ‘Eveil’ or ‘Awakening’.
“To ensure that this growing spirit of generosity is sustainable over time, ‘we must remove all barriers of mistrust,’ says Wilfried Lacour of Lyon who runs the movement’s Facebook page. So that everyone knows what others are doing an overarching website is currently under construction by web designers in Montpellier”.
Sandrine le Pailh owner of a hair salon in Angresse in the southwest has been so inspired by the idea that, according to this report she offers similar suspended haircuts to her less fortunate clients. Suspended Kebabs can be eaten at L’Orient, in Cours Clemenceau Alençon according to this report in Quest France while suspended books can be found here. Even the government is getting in on the act displaying information about the movement on an official departmental webpage.
The Neapolitans will be proud to know their show of human kindness is spreading elsewhere. Here is a recent TV clip reporting from Australia on the suspended coffee movement:
Explaining the history behind the offered coffee Snopes, the internet’s “definitive reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation says: “The notion of café customers paying for “caffe sospeso” (“suspended coffees” or “pending coffees”), drinks that can later be claimed for free by less fortunate patrons, is something that has been described as an old Italian tradition in various news and Internet accounts, although we can’t say how old or widespread the practice might actually be (inside or outside of Italy)…
“A January 2011 travel blog post about the author’s recent experience in Naples related that: ‘I was having an excellent coffee in a caffe’ bar called Augustus on the main shopping avenue, via Toledo. A well dressed gentleman of about 80 with a Borsalino hat and and elegant cane, walks to the cash register and asks to pay for ‘a coffee, and a suspended coffee’. Then drinks his coffee and leaves the bar. I tried to ignore my curiosity, but I only could for so long. Then I just had to ask the man at the register, what in the world is a ‘suspended coffee’.
“So he patiently explained, trying to speak as close to a scholastic Italian as he could (my question had given me away as an ignorant stranger): ‘Right after the war, many gentlemen had lost everything they had, and couldn’t even afford coffee. Now, being that black hot liquid pleasure not considered a treat, but rather a basic human right in the life of any Neapolitan, those gentlemen who could still afford to have one, took a habit of paying for two: one they drank, the other was credited, to be had by the first less fortunate peer who would casually walk in the bar. The bartender would then say: ‘Would you like a coffee, sir?’ Which meant: there is a coffee paid for you, if you can’t afford one.’
“The donor and the recipient would remain anonymous to each other, to protect generosity, pride, and the pleasure of coffee beyond hardships.”
Here is a list of suspended cafes joining in the movement to date according to one Facebook page:
General group : https://www.facebook.com/groups/503786552991965/
Un café en attente Rouen: https://www.facebook.com/UnCafeEnAttenteRouen
Un café en attente Brest : https://www.facebook.com/CafeEnAttenteBrest
Rencontre Un café en attente Paris : https://www.facebook.com/events/506302939417783/?ref=3
Un café en attente Paris : https://www.facebook.com/groups/528295990550614/
Un café en attente Toulouse : http://www.facebook.com/groups/324489450987002/
Un café en attente Grenoble : https://www.facebook.com/pages/-Café-suspenduen-attente-Grenoble/396069550501138?fref=ts
Un café en attente Saint Girons : https://www.facebook.com/UnCafeEnAttenteASaintGirons
Un café en attente de Marignane : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Le-Café-En-Attente/142761932562828
Café en attente de Liège : https://www.facebook.com/groups/452651748145461/
Café en attente de Strasbourg : https://www.facebook.com/SuspendedCoffeesStrasbourg
Café en attende de Montpellier :
Café/baguette en attente d’Evreux :
Café suspendu Langeac :
Café suspendu Lyon :
Café en attente Nord Cotentin:
Une baguette en attente :
Café en attente de Namur :
Café suspendu de Caen :
Café suspendu Beauvais :
Un café en attente de Dieppe :
Un café en attente Doubs 25 :
Un café en attente Angers :
Un café en attente Le Mans :
Un café suspendu Marseille :
Un café en attente Nantes : https://www.facebook.com/toutenattente?ref=ts&fref=ts
Un café en attente Clermont Ferrand : https://www.facebook.com/groups/241864172621608/?ref=ts&fref=ts
Un café en attente Bilière : https://www.facebook.com/groups/503786552991965/?fref=ts
Un café en attente de Marseille : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Le-café-en-attente-de-Marseille
Story: Ken Pottinger
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