SA’s First Blind Barista Causes a Stir

Words: Jess Spiro

Joseph 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 major attraction. Blindiana Blend, a Kaleidoscope & Beans for Africa initiative, is coffee that is blended, tasted, packed and distributed by the blind.

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. Visually impaired persons of all ages are empowered through the provision of education, training, care, employment, development and accommodation towards a fulfilled life and complete citizenship. Joseph trained at the centre, which continues to offer training to visually impaired baristas on an annual basis. Espressos, macchiatos, Americanos, and lattes – Joseph has mastered them all.

“Visitors cannot believe that their coffee was made by a blind person,” he says. “It was not an easy process though. In the very beginning I had a few incidents where 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.”

Matheatau was not born blind, but lost his sight in his left eye at the age of three. Through the years his 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.”

Joseph finally lost his vision in his late twenties and was then faced with a long period of suffering and enormous challenges. He joined Kaleidoscope training centre in Worcester in January 2014 to study Marketing and Entrepreneurship and then trained as a barista. 

“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.”

Matheatau’s dream is to open his own coffee shop in Bloemfontein within the next 5 years. “I cannot wait to make that first cup of coffee for my mother and sister,” he adds.

At this stage he had successfully completed his mobility training, he is progressing well in Braille, used the services of the counsellor to make peace with all his losses, and has mastered the computer.

Joseph will be doing a Blind Taste promotion with Kaleidoscope to promote their coffee and sell their merchandise at the Red Café in Steenberg at the Steenberg Village Shopping Centre on the 15th June.

He says that the Blindiana custom roast blend was created from Central and South American coffees blended with African beans and has a great aroma and lingering finish. “The qualities add a wonderful depth and the African coffee gives it that bittersweet, earthy taste that makes it exceptional,” he explains. “This blend of Arabica coffee beans is roasted to a medium-dark finish, which creates a medium-body coffee with splendid aroma.”

Hein Wagner, Kaleidoscope’s brand ambassador, motivational speaker and global adventurer, says that Joseph is a shining example who is living proof that with determination and the appropriate training, support and guidance, anything is possible.

Blindiana custom roast blend can be ordered on line here, from R59 (250g) to R195 (1kg). 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>