Free coffee, anyone?

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Feb. 17, 2012, 12:33 a.m. | Food & Nightclubs — by Alyona Zhuk

A waiter crosses out the last espresso on the board of “suspended” coffee purchased by a customer to give away to another who claims it.
© Kostyantyn Chernichkin

It’s not every day that a complete stranger buys you a drink. Or at least it wasn’t, until the idea of a “coffee in suspense” came to Ukraine.

This international trend of buying two coffees and leaving one “in suspense” is a new incarnation of an old trend in Naples, Italy, where it is called caffe sospeso.

It received a new life after 2008, when writer Luciano De Crescenzo published a number of stories and articles describing the tradition of paying for two coffees and drinking one, leaving the other one for the needy – or simply a cheapskate.

Now, this trend has made its way into some 20 cafes and restaurants in Kyiv. The coffee someone decides to buy is marked on a special board and remains up for grabs for anyone who has no money or simply feels like being treated today. Accompanied by the motto, “Give if you wish. Get if you want,” the idea has many forms and names.

In Ukraine, the trend has also evolved: people started buying beverages other than coffee, foods and even jewelry.

“It’s natural. Some people prefer taking, others love giving away,” says Sasha Smetanenko, the project coordinator of Babuin book cafe, where the coffee in suspense theme has taken roots.

Smetanenko said that students are the ones who take most advantage of the scheme, usually during live music concerts that take place in Babuin.

It’s natural. Some people prefer taking, others love giving away.

- Sasha Smetanenko, the project coordinator of Babuin book cafe

Homeless people often don’t know about its existence because information spreads mostly through online media.

But Varenye cafe, located close to the railway station, did get a homeless visitor using the service once.

“He came in, asked for something free, and we gave him cocoa from the suspense list,” says Andrey Pinchuk, the cafe’s owner.

Olga Kudinenko, who has suspended coffees in Varenye because “Hr 15 won’t blow my budget and might actually help someone,” doubts the trend will live long.

One reason is that most people who enter cafes can afford to do so and those who cannot are not usually welcome.

In Kharkiv, some bread-sellers started giving away free loaves, while a woman in Kyiv donated a ring – which someone claimed – and replaced it with a gift of ice cream.

In Ukraine, almost 100 cafes and restaurants have joined the trend from Ivano-Frankivsk to Chernihiv to Feodosiya.

The full list of places can be found at, and both Facebook and vkontakte social networks have support groups for it.

Varenye cafe owner Pinchuk says some customers are reluctant to give because they are suspicious of business owners. “People are afraid that I won’t give away the coffee they paid for, that I will put it on the list, and then simply wipe it off, getting both the money and the coffee,” he says.

Full list of restaurants
that support the “suspended” coffee trend:

Facebook page: h
Vkontakte page:

Some cafes:
Babuin, 10 Symona Petlyury St., (050) 356- 3326
Varenye, 22 Symona Petlyury St., (044) 288- 2877
Dveri, 13 Reytarska St.,(044) 279-5168

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