What is a Chat Mat

It’s simple really, Chat Mats are affordable and discreet double sided mats that tell fellow coffee drinkers around you that you do, or do not, want to talk. On one side, there’s a green for ‘go’ design that reads ‘Say hello and have a chat’, and on the reverse we’ve got a red design that reads ‘Not today, maybe another time’.

All you need to do is place it on your table and see if a conversation comes to you. If you aren’t the first person in that café, pub, or coffee shop that day take a look around, one of the existing customers may already have a green Chat Mat on their table and you could join them.

Where did we brew up Coffee Companions?

For a number of years, I’ve been working to get communities (and older members) talking to one another. So often I would see people sitting by themselves and I would think that some are probably very happy catching their breath where others are wishing that they had a way of becoming part of what was going on around them. Whenever I talked to people about why this happens I would hear things like ‘I don’t want to intrude’ and I realised that talking to strangers is no longer acceptable and that we all need help in breaking down some of the barriers we have created.

I became really aware of this was back in 2007 when I began volunteering on Christmas day as a Handybus driver for the elderly. I noticed what a difference a communal Christmas meal could make for people in a particular area who would otherwise not have met. It built friendships that extend far beyond Christmas day to the whole year and, I hope, continue to this day.

So, I started a charity called Community Christmas, and began to provide visibility to the network of Christmas events that go on, as well as supporting new ones to get started, which would eventually build a network of older people who meet for tea and coffee. Now I want to extend that network even further.

That’s where Coffee Companions comes in. Put plainly, we exist to get people talking. We encourage that talking by letting people indicate whether or not they’re in the mood for a conversation with our handy Chat Mats. More on that later!

Who inspired Coffee Companions?

We’re inspired by all of the charities and organisations that work so hard to put an end to social isolation, but work especially closely with the Friends of the Elderly. Their #BeaFriend campaign, which is helping to change the future of loneliness by urging everyone to connect with older neighbours and community members, is fantastic and I strongly urge you to check it out.

We are also working with a range of coffee shops, work places, hospitals and care homes, and are always looking to extend our boundaries. If you know anyone who would be interested in registering to host an event, point them to the registration pages of our website at Sign up your location

Why does a quick chat mean so much?

For many people (especially the elderly) having people in their local area who they can regularly meet up with can mean the world. Recent research from Campaign to End Loneliness has shown that 17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month (Victor et al, 2003), with two fifths of all older people saying the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014).

This not only has a huge emotional impact, but social isolation and loneliness has been shown to be more harmful to our health than more well-publicised risk factors like obesity and physical inactivity.

We need to break this cycle, and we think a nice cup of coffee is the perfect starting point for this.