Buying coffee for a stranger is a growing trend

Barb Sweet
Published on June 24, 2013
Emily Gibbons (left) and Julia Stoeterau of Hava Java in downtown St. John’s ring in lunch for a future customer as part of a pay it forward initiative called Suspended Coffee. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

Want to pay it forward? Borrowing an idea from the Suspended Coffee movement, The Telegram is trying an experiment.

Thursday, this reporter paid for coffee and a sandwich at two downtown shops — Hava Java, and Rocket Bakery and Fresh Food — leaving instructions with owners and staff to pass the food and drink on to someone in need.

We hope to get some feedback for followup stories, but the main point is to promote a random act of kindness and hopefully start the movement locally.

The Suspended Coffee movement, according to its Facebook page, has been promoting the gesture around the world for years. It’s been getting some national media play lately.

But from speaking with Rob Collins, longtime owner of Hava Java, as well as Rocket owner and sales and marketing manager Kelly Mansell, the random act is not new to St. John’s. It’s just been an informal movement.

“We have been doing it in a clandestine way for years,” said Collins, whose store on Water Street opened in the 1990s when many buildings were empty.

While downtown may now have a bustling and more well-heeled clientele with an economy fuelled by offshore oil money, there are also many people who have been displaced.


Collins said customers have often bought items for people they don’t know, maybe someone in the line behind them or out on the street.

He said he’d heard of the Suspended Coffee movement years ago and, while it’s on his radar, it just hasn’t been formalized locally, as the good deeds were being done anyway.

“It’s a fantastic movement,” Collins said.

“It’s just a wonderful idea. It truly is. In a busy day, anybody who is paying it forward — (because) everybody got stuff in their life — that’s truly awesome.”

At Rocket, Mansell said it’s also a great idea that’s been practised in a quiet way by customers.

“A lot of customers will buy for people who are outside,” she said, referring to some of the people in need who are often seen on the street nearby. Our customers are awesome. I think people who work downtown are empathetic to street people. It’s unfortunate — there is a lot of wealth, but this comes with marginalized people.”

The suspended coffee idea, which originated in Italy, allows people to buy coffee and food anonymously.

According to a CTV news report, it’s gaining steam in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.