This morning I was running late for work, but I refused to start the day without a caffeine hit. As I was rummaging through my purse trying to find coins to pay, a lady standing behind me passed over a $5 note and paid for my coffee. When I asked her why, she smiled and said, ‘just because’.
This simple, yet beautiful act of kindness reminded me of a concept I first stumbled across in Christchurch, New Zealand, called ‘suspended coffee’. A cute little coffee shop in the heart of Christchurch had a sign near the register that read:
“We proudly participate in suspended coffee…. Many years ago in Naples, Italy, a tradition was born ‘Espresso Sospeso’, translating as ‘suspended coffee’. The idea is simple. Someone goes into a café, bakery, or restaurant and pre-purchases a coffee or food. This is then a ‘suspended coffee’. Someone in need can then go into the business and ask if they have any suspended coffees. They are then provided with warmth and nourishment at no cost to themselves. Paying it forward. One coffee at a time. Purchase one for someone in need today.”
This sign could almost be seen as ironic as it was displayed at a coffee shop that was operating out of a shipping container, after being displaced from Christchurch’s earthquake many years ago.
When visiting Christchurch, the first thing you’ll notice is the genuine hospitality of the people, like this coffee shop offering suspended coffees (when they barely had a home themselves). The second thing you notice is the devastation the earthquake has left behind. Years after, buildings are still abandoned or half built, shops are in ruins, and although spirits are high, it seems the earthquake has left a irreparable scar on the city.
I highly recommend visiting Christchurch, not only to experience the beautiful hospitality, but to understand the affect tragedy has had on this town.Whilst it might take years to fully rebuild, there’s an understated strength that lies within, a fighting spirit that Christchurch lives and breathes. Scattered throughout are remnants of this spirit, whether it’s in a quaint little coffee shop or restaurant, the city certainly has a story to tell.
If you venture further out from the city, you’ll be amazed by what’s on offer. A short distance from Christchurch will see you driving amongst rolling green hills surrounded by mesmerising ocean, a stark contrast to dilapidated buildings and earthquake rubble that characterises the main town.
When flying into Christchurch, hire a car and do a driving itinerary of the South Island. This will allow you to spend some time in the city itself and then trek further beyond, trailing the Pacific Ocean as you go.
When in Christchurch, be sure to visit Restart, it’s a shopping mall built from shipping containers, a nod to the city that is rebuilding itself into a world famous setting. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of fashion, food and some of the world’s best coffee.
About a 2 and a half hour drive from Christchurch you’ll find Kaikoura, one of the prettiest beachside towns I’ve ever laid my eyes on. This is the kind of place where photographs don’t do it justice and you’ll never know the true beauty unless you see it for yourself. If visiting seals and staying in a treehouse are on your bucket list then Kaikoura should be on there too. The town is the home of Ohau Point Seal Colony and boasts epic accommodation in the form of Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses.
If you continue to drive, Cloudy Bay is about a 4 hour drive from Christchurch (which might seem like a long distance until you realise that you can visit Cloudy Bay Winery when you’re there). Sit amongst the vineyard eating a selection of cheeses, sipping on NZ’s finest – suddenly the drive seems worthwhile.