Coffee Making is For Everyone!

This café is powered by love.

Barista at work cleaning equipment in a café.

(Ronnachai Palas /

There’s good news for equity and accomodation! The percentage of people with disabilities who are gainfully employed is at its highest ever recorded rate, reports, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

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Hinichijou is one of the businesses promoting the integration of employees with disabilities. The Shanghai-based coffee chain just opened its ninth branch. This branch, CGTN reports, empowers people with visual impairments, and is one of several worldwide work initiatives for blind baristas and coffee makers with disabilities.

Bear-Claw Cafe
Hinichijou first opened its doors in 2020. Its first initiative created a market for baristas with hearing impairments. The Bear-Claw Cafe in Shanghai, which still has lines out the door, is entirely staffed by deaf servers, reports Sixth Tone

Bear-Claw Cafe has an interesting way of presenting its customers with drinks. Patrons of Bear-Claw Cafe scan a QR to place their orders. When the coffee is ready, a furry brown paw pops out of a hole in the wall brandishing a steaming cup of joe. 

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Bear-Claw Cafe’s customers explain that they enjoy the novelty of being served in such a unique fashion, and also relish the chance to empower people with disabilities to find employment. As one customer, Mr. Pan explained, “I heard there are people with disabilities working here, so I wanted to come and support them. The design of the café is creative, and the bear claw service is really adorable.”

Blind baristas
Providing opportunities for people with disabilities is a key component of Hinichijou’s business model. Its founder, Wang Tian tells CGTN, "We want to help disabled persons get jobs or start their own businesses. We also urge other companies to focus on this special group and give them opportunities to be involved in society and find employment."

After tackling challenges that baristas with hearing impairments may face, Hinichijou began working to train blind baristas, beginning with twin brothers Yin Tianyou and Yin Tianbao. 

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In addition to just serving up the coffee, the blind brothers have significant input in the business operations. According to China Daily, Yian Tianbao is the manager of the cafe and has a 10% stake in the business. He also took a lead role in helping Tian design an adaptive space. 

"Most of the designs were based on my ideas. They had many discussions with different teams and designed the store specifically to meet my needs," Yin Tianbao explained. 

Learning to make coffee
The coffee machine is one of the adaptations that made Tianbao’s success possible. Rhea Vendors, an Italian coffee branch specially customized and designed the machine with differently shaped buttons that could be distinguished by feel. 

According to Yin Tianbao, the adapted machine is a plus. "The customized coffee machine helps me a lot, otherwise, there may be few cups of good coffee.”

It took Yin Tianyou a long time to learn how to handle the retrofitted coffee maker, at Hinichijou, but now, the blind barista claims he can make a simple coffee, latte or Americano in under two minutes, and is now working on learning to design coffee art. Tianyou explained to CGTN how the work opportunity and empowerment transformed his twin brother’s life: 

"Most of my friends who are blind turned to massage therapy for jobs. More of them are doing customer services or audio post production. But the job choices are still very limited.” Tianyou explained, “My brother Tianbao went to coffee training first. He's really shy and has never talked to me for two or three hours in more than 20 years except after his first coffee training. So I got curious and went to train too."

Blind coffee servers worldwide
Tianyou and Tianbao may be the first blind baristas in China. But worldwide, others with visual impairments have learned to succeed in the coffee making business. Euro News reports on South African server, Joseph Matheatau.

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Matheatau lost his sight to glaucoma in 2010. Four years later he found employment at Blindiana Barista, a coffee shop in Worcester, South Africa that also sells products made by blind people. Matheatau fell in love with the job.

“So, it started in 2014 and when it started actually because it’s something that I liked, making hot coffees and teas and stuff like that…” Matheatau explained, “it’s something that I do from my heart. And I feel comfortable when I’m making coffee and this is why I’m still making coffee, even today.”  Matheatau wants to open his own coffee shop one day.

Ahmad Hilmy Almusawa is another visually impaired barista and glaucoma victim, working in Mata Hati Koffie in South Tangerang, Banten, Indonesia. He tells Jakarta Globe, “I hope I can open a new store that employs people with disabilities. I would like to live life to the absolute fullest and never stop fighting.”

Shanghai barista Yin Tianbo agrees on the power of willpower. He tells CGTN, "It's all about whether you can make this thing good or whether this is what you want to do. If the answer is yes, all the problems will not be problems at all."

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