Johnson Sehoro is no stranger to the coffee community. A multiple Gauteng Cup Tasting and Barista Championship finalist, his rise from a domestic gardener to one of the most admired Barista Trainers in the Coffee Industry was a steep one, that has spanned more than 15 years. Johnson worked for Ciro Beverage Solutions for more than a decade before finally plucking up the courage to go on his own and pursue his dream of owning his own Coffee Company and Training Academy. “I’ve always loved the people that I’ve worked with. Coffee brings people together and working with coffee has allowed me to meet so many people from all walks of life.” In 2018, Johnson formed Sonwaro Company and through his effervescent personality and vision for potential, Johnson found a home for his own Training Academy at Lillieslief Farm in Rivonia.
The significance of this iconic place in South Africa’s struggle history is not lost on Johnson. In fact, he insists that his students and visitors take the tour and watch the short film on the Rivonia Trialists that met secretly at Lilliesleaf farm in the 60’s in order to give a sense of perspective to his purpose. “Everyone has potential, even when they find themselves in the worst circumstances and everything is against them.” Johnson even named his signature blend 1963 as a reference to this historic period. With the support of Coffee Magazine, Huletts Sugar and a number of equipment suppliers in the coffee industry, the Sonwaro Academy took it’s first intake of deaf students in 2019, and aims to put them through the UNISA barista skills module and the SCA level 1 course in 2019. Johnson is learning sign language and has an interpreter who assist him with the training of his students. “My sister’s child is deaf, and I’ve been training deaf students for a few years. It is incredible to see them come out of their shells and be so proud of their coffee skills, that they can be out in front serving coffee to people and enjoying their role and identity as a barista” says Johnson.
Over the course of 2019 Coffee Magazine and Huletts will be investing further funds and resources into two more training academies. Look out for the June 2019 issue of Coffee magazine for the next exciting instalment.
Johnson Sehoro of Sonwaro Coffee Training Academy, with deaf students Shandre Napier, Tevin Gordon, Linda Khulu, Khomotso Mofokeng, Thokozani Tsabalala and George Ika.