(Port Elizabeth) – It might be a slightly unconventional profession, but training as a barista has changed the career paths for three young Zwide and KwaZakhele residents.
This unanticipated journey is thanks to the rise of a coffee culture in South Africa which, in turn, has seen the proliferation of popular coffee outlets such as vida e caffè, which last week (July 26) opened its second store in Port Elizabeth, at Baywest Mall.
Among the energetic baristas at the new vida e caffè are Pumlani Notshulwana, 23, Zipozetu Ntunte, 19, and Siyamthanda Sonwabo, 18, who have something in common – they were trained by non-profit organisation (NPO) Ubuntu Education Fund. The organisation aims to uplift individuals who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
According to the organisation, its students progress academically at twice the rate of their peers and are almost 50% more likely to graduate from secondary school as their classmates. Notshulwana, Ntunte and Sonwabo were trained under the organisation’s Ubuntu Pathways job readiness programme, which was launched in 2013.
“I never imagined that I would be a barista,” said Notshulwana. “I got to hear of the Ubuntu training programme through my grandmother. She had been helped by the organisation when my older sister got sick.”
“Growing up, I never knew what a barista was, but as we underwent training, it became my passion,” said Notshulwana. “I have a business mind, and I feel this could be a gateway for me to someday have my own business – perhaps owning my own coffee shop.”
Brewing the perfect coffee was not something Ntunte anticipated growing up.
“Here I am. I’m proudly a barista,” she said. “My favourite coffee to make is a flat white. It’s where I can express the love that I have for coffee, and make art [in the foam].”
Ntunte said her family was excited at her prospects with a major national brand.
“They are very excited, because vida e caffè is a major brand. My friends are always asking me questions, and I’m teaching them about coffee,” she said.
Sonwabo said her involvement with Ubuntu came thanks to a recommendation from a friend.
“This training has been addictive. At first I didn’t know much about coffee, but as we trained it was great fun and I have learned a lot,” she said.
Baywest Mall marketing manager Chris Hutchings said the vida e caffè brand was a perfect fit for the mall.
“The franchise vida e caffè is synonymous with good coffee, a great atmosphere and smiling, energised baristas. It’s something that is a natural fit for the Baywest family,” said Hutchings.
“It’s an honour for Baywest to be able to give a platform for vital community-minded organisations such as Ubuntu, which unearth the talent in their students who otherwise might not have been given the opportunity to study.”