Buy a coffee for someone who can't afford it: The new donation scheme coming to cafes in the UK

It doesn't sound as enticing as a cappuccino, flat white or latte, but a new beverage called the 'suspended coffee' is set to take cafes across the country by storm.

In a concept born in Naples, Italy, caffeine drinkers not only place their own regular order, they also request a second drink for someone who cannot afford to pay for their own.

The idea, which is not just aimed at helping the homeless but those who simply find themselves out of work and broke, for example, spread to Bulgaria and, thanks to the power of social networking sites, is beginning to take off in Britain and around the world.

So far, about 150 British cafes have signed up to what has become a formal scheme, while big chains like Starbucks and Costa are making positive noises about getting involved.

The concept is based on good faith by both shops and the customers - anyone can enter and asked for a 'suspended coffee' and are unlikely to be asked for their credentials, but it is hoped the most needy people will take advantage.

John Sweeney, a 28-year-old plumber from Cork, set up the Suspended Coffees Facebook page, and said he is being inundated with messages.

'I didn't go to bed until 4am and was up at 8.15am,' he said in the Independent on Sunday.

'It's not just an idea for the homeless. I've been in situations where I've been out of work, freezing, and would have loved nothing more than a cup of coffee, but couldn't afford one.'

The Facebook page has designed 'Suspended Coffee Supporter' logos which shops can display on their doors.

The initiative has a website in development and is working on creating an app for smartphones, while other shops are expanding the idea to cover cookies and other food.

Needy: The 'suspended coffee' scheme, which first started in Naples, Italy, can benefit the homeless or even just those struggling for money

Stores in Exeter, Glasgow, Hull and London have all joined the movement, according to the Facebook page, which has about 23,000 'likes'.

Hettie Clarke, manager at Coffee7, in Forest Gate, east London, praised the idea, saying: 'We're not going to make judgements. If you can say, 'here is a suspended coffee, from us to you,' you feel like you're doing good, but it's not too in your face.'

A Starbucks spokesman said 'suspended coffee is a really interesting campaign and we're looking into it', while other big chains made positive noises on their websites.