Café suspendu

Cafe_2063About nine months ago, I learned I had to break up with coffee, one of the great loves of my life. So naturally, le café is on my mind more than ever. My dreams often feature freeze frames of my bitter-yet-seductive, aromatic ex and I accompanying each other through every waking moment of the day.

Mr. Café and I lived, worked and travelled together for almost two decades. We met young at a New York deli, got fast and furious overnight. Iced coffee-milk-no-sugar-to-go-no-straw-no-napkin graduated to cà phê sữa đá in the highlands of Buôn Mê Thuột and at hyperactive Saigon markets, led to quick ristrettos downed with pleasant surprise at Italian gas stations, Moka pot brew at New Zealand campgrounds or flat whites overlooking the Rocks while waiting for the ferry in Sydney, fancy foreign imports slid over Seattle coffeehouse counters in chemistry beakers…mellowed at last by the tasteless café Richard noisettes delivered with a smirk at Parisian comptoirs—disappointing, mostly —yet consumed quand même.

And so many others, savored in points on a map that happily blur together. Although I’ve accepted the indefinite and neccessary suspension of our relationship, le café is often on my mind.

Hence my desire to share him with others.

I first learned of the “café suspendu”concept in Brussels a couple of years ago. A discreet sign near the till in a nondescript Marolles tabac and coffee bar announced, “Ici on pratique le café suspendu” (We practice “suspended coffee” here). When I inquired as to what kind of apparatus was required for said order, the bemused barman explained the concept, unable to resist mocking my accent, which he accomplished by calling me “la Parisienne.” A compliment (for most anyone without sensorineural hearing loss could guess I am not Francophone) wrapped in an insult.

“La Parisienne buys a coffee for herself and leaves one behind for someone else who maybe can’t afford one,” he said, showing me a coffee mug on the counter full of receipts that could be discreetly plucked out and handed over in exchange for a café, no questions asked.

The New York Times informs me caffè sospeso is a Neapolitan tradition “that boomed in WWII and has found a revival in recent years during hard economic times.”

As Luigi Solito (one of the owners of a Naples art gallery offering suspended coffees) told the Times, “Here we don’t drink coffee, we ‘take’ it, as a medicine. To me, the philosophy of the suspended coffee is that you are happy today, and you give a coffee to the world, as a present.”

My photographer friend and will investigate the Parisian suspended coffee scene and will report back. I also plan to talk to some café owners about getting something going on in my neighborhood. A friend reported that in London or Australia, the concept is often referred to as “pending” coffee and has even been seen in Starbucks.

Please let us know if you’ve seen something similar where you live, and if not, consider starting a similar initiative (why not a suspended hot meal)?

Meanwhile, click here to find out how to participate in the French version of suspended coffee. The global version exists in English and French. We’ll create a list as we find out about other similar efforts.

This afternoon I might just have un café, tout court…just to let him know how much I’ve missed him. And leave behind a taste for the next person.

CB

Café 1

Version française

Il y a neuf mois, j’ai dû apprendre à rompre avec le café, jusqu’alors l’un des grands plaisirs de mon existence. Mais ça ne l’empêche pas de continuer à venir me hanter de jour comme de nuit, cet ex-compagnon simultanément amer et séduisant. C’est que, monsieur Café et moi, on s’est rencontrés tout jeunes dans un déli new-yorkais, ça a été le coup de foudre, et on n’a plus cessé de travailler et de voyager ensemble vingt ans durant.

La version initiale (un frappé au lait à emporter sans sucre ni paille ou serviette en papier, merci !) s’est d’abord changée en cà phê sữa đá dans les montagnes de Buôn Mê Thuột ou sur les marchés vibrionnants de Saïgon, transformée en ristretti gobés à la hâte dans une station-service italienne, muée en moka-filtre pour camping sauvage en Nouvelle-Zélande, métamorphosée en flat white à l’embarcadère d’un ferry de Sydney, réinventée en liquide pour hipsters de Seattle servi dans des flacons de laboratoire, avant de finir en une insipide tasse de “café Richard” posée avec mépris sur le comptoir d’un bistrot parisien – mais ingurgitée quoi qu’il arrive !

Et tant d’autres incarnations du breuvage désormais joyeusement confondues, autant que de points sur une mappemonde en fait…

Mais j’ai beau avoir entériné la nécessaire suspension de nos relations, le café est toujours là quelque part. D’où mon désir de continuer à le partager.

C’est à Bruxelles, il y a une paire d’années, que j’ai entendu parler du concept de « café suspendu » pour la première fois, une affichette discrète près de la caisse dans un café-tabac anonyme de Marolles proclamant « Ici, on pratique le café suspendu ». J’avais demandé quel type d’équipement était nécessaire à l’élaboration de cette énième transposition à un barman amusé lequel, se fichant de mon accent, me l’avait expliqué en me traitant de « parisienne » (ce que j’avais d’ailleurs préféré prendre pour un compliment plutôt que pour une insulte) : « La Parisienne paye pour son propre café et en achète un second pour quiconque n’a pas les moyens d’en faire autant », il avait dit en désignant un mug rempli de reçus à prélever discrètement par le consommateur désargenté passant par là.

Le New York Times assure d’ailleurs que le caffé sospeso est en fait une tradition napolitaine remontant à la deuxième guerre mondiale et relancée par la crise économique de ces dernières années.

Selon Luigi Solito, le galeriste Napolitain offrant des cafés suspendus entre deux toiles et interrogé par le journal, « Ici, on ne boit pas du café, on le prend comme un médicament. Pour moi, la philosophie du café est que si vous êtes heureux aujourd’hui, vous pouvez en faire un cadeau au reste du monde ».

Dani et moi allons justement enquêter cet après midi sur la scène parisienne du café suspendu et vous en rendre compte un peu plus tard, photos à l’appui. Je pense aussi suggérer le concept aux cafetiers de mon quartier. Dites-nous s’il existe des pratiques similaires par chez vous et, dans le cas contraire, vous pourriez très bien proposer de lancer dans la foulée la mode du «repas suspendu».

Dans l’intervalle, cliquez ici pour découvrir comment contribuer à la version française du café suspendu (une version globale existe déjà en français et en anglais et nous y ajouterons par la suite toutes les initiatives similaires).

Cet après-midi, je renouerai d’ailleurs peut-être temporairement avec monsieur café tout court, histoire de lui rappeler à quel point il m’a manqué. Avec un prolongement pour le prochain client, évidemment…
Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Café suspendu

  1. One time in a crowded café in the Marais an older man asked if he could share my table with me. We were both reading books alone, so it was no bother. Something in his quiet elegant energy moved me, he had a lovely calming effect on me though we never made eye contact and just read quietly side by side. I had been there for while and ended up leaving first. When I went up to the counter to pay my bill, I instinctively paid for his coffee too. I didn’t tell him, nor did I hang around to see his reaction, but that simple inexpensive gesture made me feel great all day. Thanks for reminding of that feeling. I’ll be doing it more often now. xoxo Mel

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Let them eat brioche | bonjour, solidarity

  3. Pingback: I don’t have a good head for numbers | bonjour, solidarity

  4. In Atlanta, where I lived for 12 years, we had something called “pay forward.” As it’s a city that got built more quickly than it could think, public transportation is a slow, unorganized nightmare. So everyone drives. That’s a nightmare too. Some spend most of their day in frustrating, rage-inducing traffic. One day, I drove up to the toll booth to discover that my toll was paid by the car in front of me. That’s when I learned about pay forward. I had the cash then, but a few months back, I had to write a check for a dollar at a toll because I had nothing. (Now they all take cards of course). It made the ride home easier and faster despite of a really great Terry Gross interview on NPR:) I did it from time to time myself, usually around the holidays. As we would say in the south -“That’s solidarity y’all!”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s