South Africa’s first blind barista has found his peace

 

So you recognise the smell of freshly brewed coffee. But how many counts does it take to pour the perfect cup? As he feels his way around his coffee station, cautious of the scorching equipment, Joseph Matheatau uses every sense but sight to navigate this delicate process. After struggling for years with his identity, Matheatau has found his niche as South Africa’s first blind barista.

Matheatau remembers being able to see through only one eye as a child. He was later diagnosed with Glaucoma. The progressive disease corroded the optic nerve in his better eye until he went totally blind in 2010. Living with blindness has been difficult. Mocked by teachers and peers, Matheatau was still in school at the age of 24. But then an opportunity came through Kaleidoscope, an NPO for blind progression in South Africa, who sought a blind candidate to train as a barista.

Now Matheatau brews his coffee at the Blindiana Barista, South Africa’s first blind museum and coffee shop. According to him, it wasn’t blindness but anxiety about the unknown that hindered his growth before. With that overcome, Matheatau knows that it takes 20 counts to pour a full cup of coffee. One day he will serve his mother and sister from his very own coffee shop.