Unemployment in the Deaf community is at 70%, but one Cape Town coffee shop is hoping to change that by opening up more opportunities in the hospitality sector. I Love Coffee in Claremont, Cape Town, which opened up last month, is run by a team of three deaf baristas. Hearing customers order by pointing at the menu, and are made an excellent cup of Tribe coffee before being taught the sign for their favourite beverage so they can order it seamlessly on the next visit.
It’s an amazing idea – one that offers an opportunity to blend the hearing and Deaf communities, but owner Gary Hopkins is quick to redirect the limelight. “It’s not about me, it’s about the baristas,” he says. “Each of them has overcome amazing obstacles, and it’s great to see them grow, “ he says. Kaye-Lynn Goddard was unemployed for two years and dependent on her mother, who was unwell. Now she’s the breadwinner in the family. Thembelihle Qezu studied hospitality for 18 months, but spent six months unemployed, waiting to get the internship he needed to acquire his qualification. He’s now well on the way to his dream of becoming a caterer – although he’s fallen in love with coffee in the process. Shanlee Arendse has also overcome huge challenges to go through training. “We really admire her determination,” says Gary.
I Love Coffee has already garnered loyal regulars, and, says professional sign-language interpreter Lesego Modutle, it’s amazing to see how people are learning way more than just the signs for cappuccino or Americano.
The Claremont branch is small, and located inside a gym, so it’s just a proof-of-concept store for now, but the idea is for the brand to be a springboard for future stores around the country. In Johannesburg another group, Ciro-sponsored Blacksmith’s Coffee Movement, is also working towards growing the Deaf-run coffee-shop movement.
We thought it was high time we learned how to order our favourite drink in sign language. Watch our one-minute video and you can do it too.