Profile on Deaf Barista, Thabo Mokhele September 19 2017

SCASA is invested in helping to train a new generation of baristas and the Deaf Barista program is one of the initiatives close to the Association's heart. Thabo was one of the competitors at the first ever Deaf Barista Competition. Well done to Lavazza and Spar Bean Tree for undertaking to uplift these baristas.

PROFILE: Thabo Mokhele

Thabo Albert Mokhele, 39, wasn’t always Deaf. He lost his hearing when he was eight years old and, to this day, he doesn’t know why.

Thabo grew up in Welkom and, when he lost both of his parents, moved to Johannesburg to find work. At that stage, he had no idea what he wanted to do, especially since communication with hearing people was a real challenge.

When the opportunity arose for Thabo to be trained as a professional coffee barista, he jumped at the chance. He completed an intensive barista training course at the Ciro Coffee Academy, in partnership with retail group SPAR and Lavazza, and was employed at a SPAR Bean Tree Café, where he has served coffee ever since.

Thabo says that working in the service industry as a Deaf person isn’t easier or harder than being a hearing person; it’s simply more ‘interesting’. He admits that, while he sometimes struggles to express himself, he uses every method he can to get his message across: Sign Language, finger spelling or lip reading.

Thabo describes himself as a humble man who respects everyone and who loves nothing more than serving a hot cup of coffee, made with love and accuracy. Why accuracy? Thabo says that if he had only one barista trick to share with ardent coffee-drinkers it would be this: It’s all about accuracy, whether you’re a hearing person or a Deaf person. 

He hopes to one day brew the perfect cup for veteran radio jock Bob Mabena, whom Thabo admires for his great humility.

Working as a barista at SPAR Bean Tree Café has made Thabo realise that perseverance pays off when you believe in yourself and accept who you are.

If you or your company would like to sponsor the training of a deaf barista (for only R2700), please email for more information.