Cafe scheme lets people leave coffee for homeless

Alice Thompson of Social Bite. Picture: Esme Allen
Alice Thompson of Social Bite. Picture: Esme Allen
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IT started out as a way for Italian workers to set up free espressos for the less well off – now a city cafe is planning to give away coffee as part of a new initiative.

Social Bite, on Rose Street, has begun selling suspended coffee, a simple idea where customers pay for a coffee in advance so those in need – such as the homeless – can have a warm drink.

Espresso donating first became popular in southern Italy and has since taken off in the United States.

Now cafe bosses say the idea is catching on in Edinburgh too. In addition to Social Bite, coffee houses such as Forrest Road’s Union of Genius and Leith Walk’s Yellow Chair are also employing the same tactic.

It doesn’t just extend to the drinks menu – with people also able to pay for food that can later be served up to 
people who can’t afford to pay. 
Alice Thompson, co-founder of Social Bite, hopes that in six months Edinburgh could be the UK’s suspended coffee capital. She says currently more than £100 a week is being left for coffees and food by kindhearted customers – and she expects that figure to grow as more people find out about the idea.

She said the brew-donating scheme “was the simplest way for the average person to make a small difference in the lives of homeless people”.

“The fact that it has proven so popular with our customers doesn’t just come from offering the service alone,” she said. “As a social business all of the profits from these suspended coffees – like all our profits – are invested into projects which tackle the causes of problems like homelessness at the source over the long-term, while the coffees have the immediate impact on the local homeless community.”

Owned by Scottish Business Awards organiser Josh 
Littlejohn, Social Bite’s profits are donated to a range of projects such as Grameen Danone, which uses a nutritious yoghurt to battle child malnutrition in Bangladesh.

Alice added: “We live in a remarkably generous city. We couldn’t possibly have had the success we’ve had if it didn’t strike such a chord.”

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com