Thursday, 24 April 2014

Suspended coffee: what's that all about?

Around Christmas, a lady came to Coffee 7 in Forest Gate and offered £60 towards suspended coffee project. She said she didn’t want to buy Christmas gifts, but would rather donate the amount of money she would have spent for that purpose. It could buy approximately 30 coffees. Make a day better for 30 people. Bring smile on 30 faces.
Maybe one of those smiles appeared on the face of elderly gentleman who comes to Coffee 7 in the summer and whose main motivation to go out is the fact that there is a place where he can get a coffee, be with people and enjoy the community spirit. 

Video comes from and was created by
Production Company: Mummu
Director: Karl Hammond
Animation Assistant: Alberta Torres
Music production and sound design: Room-24 Studios
Voice Over: Martin Allanson
These are only two stories from Coffee 7 in Forest Gate which was the one to initiate the idea of suspended coffee in London – you can watch the video on BBC. Some other followed, some didn’t. Year after the launch I have got a look how suspended coffee is working in London here and there.
Coffee 7 which started the action in London continues it with lots of success. They can share many more stories like those from the beginning of the post. They also partnered with a local refugee organisation and offered some of the suspended coffee to its beneficiaries. 
The other place I came across – Look Mu No Hands, did it for 4 months last year during a summer festival in Southbank and may return to the idea this year. Both of them are happy they got involved in the project. It benefits the community and brings people together whether they are elderly residents, builders or festival volunteers.
Both coffee houses avoid the argument that they do it for money, because even if someone pays only £1.50 (average price of an espresso) towards suspended coffee fund, they allow beneficiaries to get any coffee, even latte which is usually £1 more expensive than that. Daniel, from Coffee 7, says that it’s not an action aimed only at people in need – sometimes it’s a person who just had a bad day or forgot cash or credit card who can make use of it. In Forest Gate the action is actually alive. On the tally the numbers are constantly changing and it’s about two or three people a day who buy a suspended coffee. 
Barista from Look Mum No Hands confirmed that idea works better in local cafes than those located on high streets or in places where people visit more randomly. They tried to launch it in LMNH in Clerkenwell but didn’t work. Someone suspended a coffee but it “hanged” for a very long time until they decided not to continue.
For the first time I read about the idea about a year ago on a Polish website. Straight away, I thought it was a great idea – it allows people to give to others and brings communities together. I saw it as a new type of charity which allows us to support each other and thought there should be more initiatives like that. When I came back to the subject year after and read comments on the web I realised not everyone were as enthusiastic as I was. In many cases suspended coffee idea simply didn’t work – coffees suspended a year ago were still waiting for the person in need, people accused coffee houses on making money instead of helping others and suggested that homeless person doesn’t need a coffee but real help.
Example of Coffee 7 shows that it can work but it needs to be based in the community not among random people (or maybe we should build more communities of random people?). I agree that coffee is not a good #1 for people in need but let’s remember it’s the idea for coffee houses to do charity, so they share the best they have. There are other charities and organisation that are taking care of all the other needs. Year after I still think the idea is worth supporting and next time I visit Coffee 7 will suspend a coffee and track its story. And will keep tracking where you can/buy a suspended coffee around London and beyond.
And if you have stories related to suspended coffee or know a place which is involved into the project, post them in comments. 

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