Grind force! Barista training benefits café hit by the pandemic

Caledonian Road business offers mentoring for people with special educational needs and disabilities

Friday, 18th March — By Anna Lamche

Kiara Lavery with Albiona and Sophie

Full of beans, from left: mentor Sophie Lewis, mentee Albiona Sandiku, and Kiara Lavery

A STRUGGLING business was given a lifeline after becoming a training ground for those with special educational needs and disabilities.

House of Morocco, a café based in Caledonian Road, has been hard-hit by the pandemic after losing trade from office workers but has formed a temporary partnership with SEND Coffee, a not-for-profit organisation that funds barista courses by partnering with coffee shops.

Owner Naqiyah Sultan said: “I had to survive until the end of my lease. The partnership helped me to survive. It was a win-win collaboration.”

The programme is open to those aged 18-25 and runs for the course of full academic year.

SEND Coffee’s Kiara Lavery said: “We provided beans, a bit of hospitality know-how, and things have definitely picked up. In return, Naqiyah has been kind enough to let us bring our students here.”

Each student gets “hands-on, one-on-one mentoring,” Ms Lavery said. On the course, students learn a range of skills from latte art and customer service to coffee expertise.

“It’s a skilled job to be a barista in the coffee industry. But it’s not just work skills [we teach], it’s life skills too. The course is also about addressing ways to overcome certain inhibiting aspects of disability, social anxiety and other hurdles,” Ms Lavery said.

“We also do travel training, hygiene, and sex education.”

The students are “in that transitory phase where they’re just teetering on the edge of becoming adults. We wanted to give them the right educational tools that they need to make that transition,” Ms Lavery said.

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