Coffee industry gives deaf community a boost

Deaf barista, Thabo Albert Mokhele has served coffee fans at SPAR Bean Tree in Hobart, Bryanston for over two years.

PREMIUM coffee brand Lavazza and SPAR Bean Tree coffee shops have partnered to support the deaf community through their new customer service strategy.

The collaboration of the shops focuses on training and employing internationally-accredited coffee shop baristas through Ciro Coffee Academy (CCA).

This facilitates communication between both hearing-impaired trained baristas and patrons.

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“Deaf baristas – and the sign language menus that enable communication and facilitate ordering at SPAR Bean Tree coffee shops – have been well-received by customers, who get excellent coffee and warm, friendly service,” said Debbie Haswell, SPAR’s group retail operations project manager.

CCA has designed different coffee courses to accommodate deaf barista training into their programmes. The St Vincent School for the deaf and eDeaf are two organisations that assist CCA in recruiting candidates who wish to pursue a career in coffee.

Thabo Albert Mokhele, 39, a deaf barista said working as a deaf person in the service industry is not any easier or harder than being a hearing person, rather“interesting”. “Working at SPAR Bean Tree coffee shop is a wonderful experience. I am happy when I can serve a customer a hot cup of Lavazza coffee made with love,” said Mokhele.

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CCA is now offering a new Short Course in Barista Skills, an official NQF Level 4 certification available exclusively through UNISA, for both hearing and hearing-impaired candidates.

As part of launching this programme, UNISA is sponsoring the enrolment of 30 deaf candidate baristas. All that is needed is 30 stipends to the value of R2700 each, to assist candidates with expenses while undergoing training.

Those who wish to sponsor the programme should contact Lani Snyman on [email protected] while those interested in enrolling in the training programme should contact Ciro Coffee Academy on their website:


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Sihle Molope

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