Heard of ‘Suspended Coffee Day’?

The economic crisis plaguing the euro zone since late 2009 has caused many unsavory developments. Entire governments have folded and poverty has skyrocketed. The stories we hear aren’t usually happy ones.

A coffee cup in Rome, Italy. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

But here’s one that heats the belly as it warms the heart.

“Suspended coffee day” is a day when people who can’t afford a cup of coffee can come and drink one anyway, paid for by those who are better off.

The tradition of “caffe sospeso” began in Naples, Italy, about 100 years ago.

It really took off in the wake of World War II, when Italy was experiencing a crisis arguably worse than the one today — at least more visible.

“It was a beautiful custom,” Neapolitan writer Luciano de Crescenzo told NPR. “When a person who had a break of good luck entered a cafe and ordered a cup of coffee, he didn’t pay just for one, but for two.”

When the economy started picking up postwar, “suspended coffees” became a thing that happened only during Christmas. But now that Italy is hurting again, the tradition has started brewing once more.

Several NGOs got together with the support of the mayor and declared Dec. 10 to be “Suspended Coffee Day.”

Here’s how it works: The barista keeps track of the money coming in, and when someone pops in asking whether anything has been “suspended,” the barista will nod and serve it up. No questions asked.

Sort of a variation on buy one, get one free, except you buy two and someone else gets one free. The two parties never meet. Recognition and gratitude don’t come into it.

It’s a simple tradition, and it’s spreading.

NPR reports that more than 150 cafes in Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest country, have joined the initiative.

France has “cafe en attente” (“waiting coffee”), and in Spain, there’s a network called Cafes Pendientes (“pending coffees”).

According to the site, coffeesharing.com, which exists to foster the growth of this tradition, there are 19 participating countries.

Most are in Europe: Germany, Romania, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, France, Norway, Hungary, United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland, Austria, Bulgaria, Italy.

But cafes in Australia, the US, Japan and Canada have also taken up the tradition, according to the site.

And AFP reports that the tradition within Italy is spreading beyond coffee to — what else? — pizza!

“Pizza is the daily bread that Jesus left us,”Ciro Oliva, manager of Pizzeria Oliva in Naples, told AFP. “We have to share it.”

He said they give out up to 20 “suspended pizzas” a week, mainly to Romanian and Sri Lankan immigrants.

– Global Post