Blind barista smells success

2016-11-08 06:00
Joseph Matheatau, the first blind coffee barista in the country, will be serving his “awesome” coffee at La Cuccina Hout Bay on Thursday.

Joseph Matheatau, the first blind coffee barista in the country, will be serving his “awesome” coffee at La Cuccina Hout Bay on Thursday.

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Joseph Matheatau (38), a blind coffee barista, says he always knew that he would be someone special one day.

The first blind coffee barista in the country will be doing a promotion with charity Kaleidoscope to promote their coffee and sell their merchandise at La Cuccina Hout Bay on Thursday. He will be the barista for the day.

Originally from Bloemfontein, Matheatau lost his sight in his left eye at the age of three. Over the years the sight in his right eye also deteriorated to such an extent that he was unable to attend school.

“It is difficult if people and your family do not believe in you. My family believed I was too lazy to see and to go to school. The teachers at school made jokes about my eye condition.”

He finally lost his vision in his late 20s and was then faced with a long period of suffering and challenges to overcome.

He joined Kaleidoscope training centre in Worcester in 2014 to study Marketing and Entrepreneurship and then trained as a barista.

Kaleidoscope (previously known as the Institute for the Blind) is a non-profit organisation that has been catering for the all-inclusive needs of the blind since 1881.

The centre continues to offer training to visually impaired baristas on an annual basis. Visually impaired people of all ages are empowered through the provision of training, care, employment, development and accommodation towards a fulfilled life.

“I was the first blind barista that they’ve ever trained. The first part of the course was theory – discovering coffee, where it originates amongst other things. It wasn’t that difficult, I just had to listen very carefully, because I couldn’t read up on it afterwards. They asked questions on the theory and I passed the test.”

Matheatau has defeated endless challenges and faced adversity head-on to become SA’s first blind barista, working at Kaleidoscope’s museum in the Blindiana Barista Coffee Shop, where he has become a big attraction.

“They orientated me at the machine, showed me all the parts of the machine and the coffee beans.

“I had a few challenges with the practical training, because I had to use my hands to navigate which meant I ended up burning myself a few times. The frothing knob gets very hot and I was trained on a manual machine, so I had to count to 20 to get the perfect espresso. It was super important that no-one interrupted me, otherwise I’d get it all wrong,” says Matheatau.

Though it didn’t come easy for him he knew that he would make it.

“It might sound strange, but in my heart I always knew I was going to be someone special one day,” he says.

“When I used to tell my friends I was going to have my own shop and write out cheques someday, they laughed at me. My dream is to open my own coffee shop in Bloemfontein within the next five years. I cannot wait to make that first cup of coffee for my mother and sister,” he adds.

Matheatau has mastered the art of making coffee. He has learnt to make espressos, macchiatos, americanos and lattes.

“Visitors cannot believe that their coffee was made by a blind person,” he says.

Despite him being on the road to success, it was not an easy process.

“In the very beginning I had a few incidents in which I burned myself. It was a nightmare learning to froth the milk. But today I can successfully prepare a cup of coffee and I get the smell of success.”

He has successfully completed his mobility training. He is progressing well in Braille, used the services of the Kaleidoscope counsellor to make peace with all his losses and mastered the computer.

Matheatau has a normal day at work just like anyone.

“When I arrive at work, I put on my apron and will start to rinse the coffee machine. I get everything ready, check if there’s enough cups and saucers and bring everything to my working station. At 17:00 when I finish work, I go home, have a rest for 30 minutes and then do some exercise. I will then take a shower, make supper and end my day with my studies.”

He wants people to learn from him.

“I’m an inspiration to my family. When they doubt themselves, they can look at me and say: ‘If Joseph can do it, I can do it too.’ They’re so extremely proud of me.

“I also want other people to believe in themselves and not look at the challenges,” he says.

Matheatau didn’t want to come to the Western Cape but it has worked for him.

“I didn’t know how to walk independently with my cane or know anything about Braille or a computer.

“Thankfully, I did come because I am now able to walk on my own, send emails, use a computer, live independently and produce awesome coffee. Everything that I couldn’t do before.”

Hein Wagner, Kaleidoscope’s brand ambassador, a motivational speaker and global adventurer, says that Matheatau is living proof that with determination and the appropriate training, support and guidance, anything is possible.V Blindiana coffee can be ordered online at Find KaleidoscopeSA on Facebook and follow @Institute4Blind on Twitter.

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