Eko Sugeng is not an ordinary barista – he is a barista with a disability.
Eko lost part of his arms in a work-related accident in 2002, and after a long and sometimes lonely struggle to come to terms with had happened to him, he decided to go to Yakkum Rehabilitation Center in Yogyakarta early in 2004. There, the 33-year-old not only learned to adapt, he also regained his confidence and the conviction that he could work again someday and be independent once more, despite his disability.
He did all kinds of exercises and even learned to type on a computer using his feet.
In 2017, a café with a difference opened at the rehabilitation center. Cupable Café adopted an innovative business model that is about much more than just serving delicious coffee. It also provides training opportunities for people with disabilities.
Eko, who worked as a receptionist at Yakkum at the time, saw the barista training offered by Cupable Café as a golden opportunity. "'Why am I only enjoying coffee if I can make it?' That question gave me a strong determination to learn to be a barista," he said.
Eko has since become one of the first disabled baristas working at Cupable Café. His signature drink is a manual brew of arabica beans from Suroloyo, Kulon Progo and Jambi. He can make at least 15 cups of coffee per day.
With help from his mentor, Arka Pawiwit, Eko is currently learning to make coffee latte, because some parts of the process, such as steaming the milk and creating latte art, are very difficult for a person lacking fingers.
Eko and his wife have one child, whom he says motivates him to overcome his challenges. His dream is to open his own café one day where he can employ people like himself, living with disabilities.
"I make coffee without hands, but it does not mean without love," Eko said.