If you think suspended coffee is java that hangs from the ceiling, you’ve got another thing coming. Suspended coffee is actually the practice of buying yourself a cup and then shouting someone else. But, the thing is, you don’t know who that coffee is for.
Widely understood to have originated in Naples as espresso sospeso, the concept of suspended coffee is now well and truly brewing in Melbourne. Troy Benjamin of Banana Alley’s T-Roy Browns is one of the city’s Suspended Coffee Society members.
‘When I heard that it was supporting local communities, I thought that was perfect for here – especially when there’s a lot of less fortunate, to the point of homeless, near my cafe,’ says Troy. ‘They generally do come in anyway so, I thought, what better way of getting everyone involved.’
‘I look after about 10 people, I reckon, on a regular basis. It’s been the same guys from under the bridge that come by. They’re coming in three times a day, on the way to wherever they’re walking. They come in and stand and read the paper.’
‘I like it,’ says Troy. ‘Customers are getting to know them, and I think that’s gotta be a good thing. I think maybe people that might walk straight past them, they kind of can’t when they’re together in this little shop.’
Troy points out that the concept is not about worthiness, it’s open for all. ‘It might strike the wrong chord with some people who think it’s not fair; these people shouldn’t be getting shouted,’ he says. ‘But that’s what we’re trying to eliminate, you know.’
‘It’s more than just sipping on the coffee and taking a freebie. I’m sure we’ve all heard of people that have been so broke they can’t afford coffee for the next few weeks, so that’s what it’s there for.’
‘It’s strange,’ he smiles. ‘It really is just shouting someone that you don’t know. I think once people get hold of that concept, they’ll realise it’s not about freeloading. It could be someone standing next to you on the train one day, you just never know.’
You can also get your suspended coffee warm and fuzzies at Quist’s Coffee on Little Collins Street.