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A new beginning for award-winning deaf barista Phumzile Mazibuko

A perfectly brewed cuppa is a big drawcard for visitors and guests to hotels and for Phumzile Mazibuko, pictured above, ANEW Hotel Hilton’s newest barista, making the perfect coffee is where she gets a chance to come into her own!

Phumzile, who has been deaf since birth, is the hotel group’s first deaf employee.

Thanks to the Ciro Coffee Academy Barista Project initiative and Essential Deaf (eDeaf), Phumzile, from Ladysmith, has found her niche in the bustling hotel.

Sign language

Ciro provides training and employment for baristas in internationally-accredited coffee shops and has now made it possible for the hearing-impaired to qualify.

Specially designed sign-language menus allow for easy understanding between patrons and baristas.

To ensure a seamless transition into hotel life, Essential Deaf (eDeaf) sensitisation and sign-language training has been implemented for all staff at the Midlands hotel to encourage positive communication and a compassionate working environment for deaf employees.


To help Phumzile settle into life at the hotel, she has been assigned two buddies.

The coffee academy’s courses accommodate the hearing-impaired and all trainee baristas are taken through the Speciality Coffee Association modules.

These develop their knowledge and skills on the history of coffee machines and the coffee-making process.

Training also covers customer engagement, grinding, extracting, milk texturing, presenting, serving and maintenance.


On completion of training, the academy assists deaf barista graduates with employment, through its network of clients.

In addition to her barista training, Phumzile underwent the ANEW Hotels & Resorts induction, where she was introduced to the group’s HITEC values.

She went on to win the HITEC Award for Courage, in recognition of her ‘ability to adapt and take on new challenges and surroundings, as if it were second nature to her – and always with a smile’.

“We wholeheartedly support Ciro’s commitment to uplifting South Africa’s deaf community by promoting training and development of accredited coffee shop baristas and look forward to placing more hearing-impaired baristas,” said the hotel group’s CEO, Clinton Armour.


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