Flavours of change: how a sip of coffee led to a new life for Aashifa Hussein

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Food, Writing

Coffee academy Well Grounded is helping to transform the lives of people with barriers to employment, by Victoria Stewart

Aashifa Hussein was drinking hot chocolate in her favourite cafe – Store Street Espresso – when she noticed an advert pop up on her laptop screen that offered free training to people wanting to work in the coffee industry.

Though unemployed Hussein was fixated on hot chocolate and would not normally have taken notice of an ad relating to an industry she knew nothing about. But only a few minutes earlier she happened to have tasted coffee for the first time, and now thinks the experience flagged something in her brain.

“My friend had been talking about the amazing black filter coffee, so I’d had a sip and I thought it was so bizarre… I still think it is, really, although now I also think it’s great.”

Recently graduated with a degree in education studies at UCL, Hussein had lost her way.

“I wasn’t self confident. I was struggling with just navigating from day to day,” she explains from the Islington branch of Vagabond Coffee shop where she now works as head barista, and is in charge of maintaining coffee quality.