It may sound like the latest trend in showy barista techniques, but a "suspended coffee" is much more heartwarming than a snazzy latte. Born in the cafes of southern Italy, the "caffe sospeso" (which literally means “suspended coffee”) is a tradition in which someone pays in advance for an extra cup or two, which can then be consumed by a coffee-drinker-in-need later in the day.

At cafes that participate in the custom, customers can ask if there are any “suspended coffees” available, and if so, they are supplied with a beverage, thanks to the kindness of a stranger.

The Raw Story reports that cafes use a pot of small cards or bottle caps to count the number of coffees already paid for that are available for claim.

In Bulgaria, where deepening poverty is sparking tensions, the tradition is taking off. More than 150 cafes across the country are taking part, and the movement has even spawned several Facebook pages.

It seems unlikely that the tradition will gain traction in trendy coffee houses here in the States. But maybe if we spread the word, our local cafes may take up this “kindness in a cup” initiative and start "suspending" coffees of their own. What better way to instill a little goodwill than with a warm cup of Joe?

Related stories on MNN:

Pay it forward, coffee-style
A goodwill initiative called 'suspended coffee' supplies a needy stranger with a cup of coffee, and it's gaining steam in Europe.