Bold and Strong: CoffeeTec Celebrates Women in Coffee
We’ve wanted to highlight women in the coffee industry for a while, especially since we work with so many — including four talented and hard-working women on our CoffeeTec team. We’ve also partnered with at least 15 amazing women coffee roasters this past year to help them buy and sell coffee equipment, and we’re happily watching that number grow.
Like the arrival of spring itself, it’s refreshing to see more women roasters rise up and become visible in a coffee roasting scene traditionally dominated by men. March is National Women’s History Month, so it’s a great time to add to the larger conversation of recognizing women’s roles in every segment of the coffee supply chain.
In this article, we’ll:
Look at some of the issues facing women in the coffee industry — and see how female coffee leaders are gaining ground Highlight four of our female coffee roasting clients Recommend women leaders to watch Provide you with a directory of women-owned coffee businesses to support
The Future Is Female
In almost every industry, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is the hot topic. And, rightfully so, especially in the coffee industry where so many women have been said to make up about 43% of the global agricultural coffee workforce. Women do so much behind the scenes in coffee, particularly at origin, and are often in roles that directly relate to the quality in the early stages of a coffee supply stream. Hand harvesting, processing, and quality control are a few examples. Yet, these women's voices often are not heard because they have little financial control or decision-making power.
The world of coffee is as complex as it is diverse, and it can be hard to measure gender equity from country to country. We recognize the importance of addressing gender disparities but are the first to say that tackling such a huge subject is outside our scope of expertise. Perfect Daily Grind has written a couple of excellent in-depth articles on the subject, and we recommend giving those a read to get a full handle on the topic.
We also want to highlight the efforts of the Café Femenino coffee program, a one-of-a-kind ethical sourcing model founded in 2003, committed to ending the cycle of poverty affecting women coffee farmers across the world. Café Femenino provides direct compensation to women farmers, along with the opportunity and resources to enact positive change in their communities and on their own terms.
Speaking specifically of women coffee roasters, a 2012 Roast magazine survey quoted that women comprised just 12% of the global coffee roaster population. That number has doubled in recent years, with female roasters making an incredible impact, particularly within the ethical “third wave” coffee space. They are showing us how important it is to care about the world around us.
We champion the women who are pointing the way to a more diverse and inclusive future for the coffee industry. And, it’s wonderful to see more vibrant, hard-working, visionary women cementing their place within the world of coffee.
Two Defining Events Help Turn the Tide
Change always starts somewhere, and there are two key events in the past six years on the world coffee stage that started shifting the narrative about women in coffee.
2016: #ShesTheRoaster Is Born
After the 2016 U.S. Roaster Championship, where all the competitors were men, the Coffee Roasters Guild event Committee and Specialty Coffee Association set up She’s The Roaster, a movement and associated hashtag #shestheroaster to encourage and promote women roasters.
2018: First Female World Barista Champion
In 2018, SCA celebrated the first female World Barista Champion, Poland’s Agnieszka Rojewska (left). A known personality in the global coffee roasting world, Agnieszka, or “Aga” as everyone calls her, is a three-time Polish Barista Champion and four-time Polish Latte Art Champion.
You can follow her journey to the 2018 World Barista Championship through the 2020 film Coffee Heroes, where you can watch her and her mentor and former champion Sasa Sestic travel to Ethiopia in search of the perfect coffee.
We continue our film recommendations with Women In Coffee, produced by Equal Exchange. In this 13-minute documentary, you’ll meet the inspiring women leaders across the coffee supply chain, including farmers, a coffee buyer, quality manager, roaster, and barista.
The entire short film is beautiful and impactful but we were most struck by the two below accounts:
“I told my husband I needed a plot of land. We’ve been married for over 20 years, so I asked him to give me a piece of land in my name. So, he gave me a plot. We started with organic coffee from the hands of women. I started seeing things differently. I was the owner of that plot. I started to like it. Now I have a new life, supporting my husband so that we can help our children thrive. When we’re in an environment like this, it’s an environment of life, and it’s part of life as a human being. Today for me, coffee is a passion. With love, with passion, and with a lot of work. And it’s the effort of women.”
— Maria Dolores Zelaya, Coffee Landowner and Farmer, Honduras
“Being a female coffee buyer has its challenges. Being part of trade relationships that have often been spaces where mostly men have dominated, can present hurdles and barriers. But, especially being inspired by the female farmers, I feel like there are no boundaries, and the gender norms expected of us have no place in our supply chain.”
— Carly Kadlec, Green Coffee Buyer, Equal Exchange
Meet Four Female CoffeeTec Clients
At the top of this article, we mentioned that we’ve been lucky enough to help support a good number of female roasters in their business growth this past year. We introduce you to four bold and strong women who are making their mark on the coffee roasting industry each in their own unique way.
[Note: These just represent some of the amazing women we've worked with. There are plenty of others worthy of mentioning in this article. If you are a woman roaster who would like to have your CoffeeTec customer story told, please contact us and we'd love to chat.]
Sandra Dias and Adriana Ciliotta: Blooming Hearts Roastery & Cafe (Milford, MA)
We recently featured Sandra Dias of Blooming Hearts Roastery in our February 2022 Roastery Story, when she purchased a 2021 3-kilo San Franciscan SF6 from CoffeeTec client Rubicon Coffee Roasters. Sandra co-founded and runs Blooming Hearts Roastery with her partner Adriana Ciliotta. Both women have been studying the art of coffee roasting for years, with Adriana attending a barista course in her hometown of Lima, Peru. In 2021, the pair had their kitchen certified and have been selling freshly roasted coffee beans to their local community, with hopes of soon opening a cafe where people can gather to chat over a delicious cup of coffee.
Kimberly Marcaccini: Coffee del Rey (Plano, TX)
Coffee del Rey owner Kimberly Marcaccini was 8 years old when she had her first taste of coffee. In her Brazilian family, coffee time meant talking and togetherness, and she was eager to join in. Marcaccini’s grandparents picked coffee cherries in Brazil, and her maternal grandfather often roasted coffee over an open flame.
After graduating from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in 2013, then a stint in Korea teaching English, Marcaccini returned to Dallas to gain more professional experience in the coffee industry. She came upon Plano-based roaster Coffee del Rey, and when she was told they weren’t hiring, she offered to work for free. Two weeks after working for no pay, she got hired part-time and started learning all about the coffee-roasting process.
In late 2017, the roastery owner decided to sell the shop, and Marcaccini purchased the business from him. Since taking over, Marcaccini, now in her early 30s, has prioritized giving back. She donates 10 percent of her profits to local charities, is meticulous about where her product originates, and is content to carry on her family tradition.
Lee Wallace: Peace Coffee (Minneapolis, MN)
Peace Coffee CEO Lee Wallace handles the day-to-day operations with her cattle dog, Ruby, by her side. She loves to travel and visit our farmer-partner cooperatives around the globe. She leads Peace Coffee with incredible wisdom, foresight, and gives employees the confidence to excel in their roles. Her passion is driven by a tenacity to advocate for Peace Coffee’s farmer partners, their land, and the wellbeing of everyone along the supply chain.
She writes on Peace Coffee’s website: “I love that coffee is this very common thing with an incredibly complex back story. It’s a way to talk to people about all kinds of stuff: international trade, climate change, farming, the ways things taste…the list goes on.”
Sarah Hrisak, former Lead Roaster at Equal Exchange, has been quoted as saying: “The more you see women in leadership roles in the global coffee supply chain, the more women you’ll see.”
We sure hope so.
6 Female Coffee Trailblazers to Watch
So much positive energy is now being focused on making women’s contributions across all segments of the coffee supply chain more visible — and there’s no shortage of female leaders heading up the charge. Here are just a few we recommend that you watch.
#1 Dr. Sarada Krishnan: International Women's Coffee Alliance
In May 2021, coffee scientist and coffee sector leader Dr. Sarada Krishnan was appointed to the role of executive director of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA). The IWCA works to build networks and empower women throughout the coffee supply chain. To catch a vision for Dr. Krishnan’s work, watch her deliver an address on the Coffee Conservation Strategy at the 2017 Re:co Symposium.
#2 Kimberly Easson: Equal Origins/Partnership for Gender Equity
An enormously respected coffee industry leader, Kimberly Easson is founder and CEO of the Equal Origins/Partnership for Gender Equity, a US-based, women-led nonprofit social enterprise focused on improving gender equity and sustainability along coffee, cocoa, and tea supply chains. Before that, she spent 13 years working at Fairtrade International, and later the JavaJog for a Cause, an industry run/walk that has raised more than $100K for women in coffee-producing countries. She’s also served on Specialty Coffee Association’s board.
Easson was among the 2021 class of The Sprudge Twenty honorees. In a 2021 Sprudge interview, she shares that “women are the hidden workforce and engine behind the coffee value chain. Gender equity is the foundation to healthy families, communities, and the long-term success of the coffee sector.”
#3 Phyllis Johnson: BD Imports
Coffee industry veteran Phyllis Johnson has made her mark in an industry not exactly populated with those who look like her. Through her efforts in her own business, BD Imports, and with industry organizations like the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, she considers it her life’s work to address what the industry needs to do to confront true equity and inclusion for women and Black people.
#4 Laura Gonzalez: Strong Women of Coffee
Laura Gonzalez is the founder of Strong Women of Coffee, a website and Instagram account that aims to highlight the female roasting heroes of the coffee world. Born in Guadalajara, today Gonzalez is based in Vancouver, Canada, where she works at Genius, an espresso equipment supply and tech service.
“I started this project because I want the world to know the amazing women in the coffee industry,” Laura shares on her website. “When people hear the words ‘women in coffee’ I want them to picture strong, intelligent, fierce, bold women, working to make a difference in the industry.”
To Gonzalez, this also extends to female producers fighting to have the same respect, support, and opportunities as their male counterparts in many countries where coffee comes from.
#5 Chi Sum Ngai: Coffee Project New York
In 2015, Malaysian-born Chi Sum Ngai and her partner Kaleena Teoh opened the first Coffee Project New York location in the East Village, which became an instant hit. Sum continued to learn on the job and build her coffee expertise. She became a certified Q Grader, a designation for evaluating and grading coffees that is analogous to the prestigious “Master Sommelier” in the wine world, and launched Coffee Project New York’s roasting program. Now, the brand has four cafes around New York City, as well as the only Speciality Coffee Association-certified Premier Training Campus in the state, located in Long Island City.
#6 Amaris Guitierrez-Ray: The Women in Coffee Project
In 2018, Amaris Guiterrez-Ray founded the Women in Coffee Project, a volunteer-run project aiming to highlight the voices of women throughout the coffee supply chain. She puts her knowledge and skills to work in galvanizing the coffee community by providing forums for women to share the stories and experiences that would otherwise be obscured by innate and inequitable gender dynamics. She also serves as Director of Roasting at NYC-based Joe Coffee Company.
Are You A Woman-Owned Business Looking To Grow?
We’d love to work with you and support your business growth. Our main priority is to empower, educate, and equip you with the tools you need to build your roastery or coffee business. So, if you’re ready to invest in a high-quality, well-vetted used coffee roaster for your coffee roastery, cafe, or business — or if you're looking to buy a roaster or other coffee equipment — please contact us for a chat.
We’ve always got a rotating selection of used and new equipment, and we take time to understand what you’re looking for to keep your roastery running. We can also advise on your roastery plans and logistics in light of pandemic supply chain disruptions.
And, if you need financing support, check out our Roaster’s Choice Lending Program, where our private network of the nation’s top lenders with your own designated point of contact will help you find the best financing deals available. To get a sense of the monthly payment amount and start the financing application process, just find a roaster you’re interested in (with a value of $2,000 or more) and click the green “Finance It” box for details.
Let’s help you build the coffee roastery of your dreams — and with a roaster that’s right for you.
Shop CoffeeTec’s Women-Owned Coffee Business Directory
All of the women-owned roasters listed below are also fully dedicated to lifting up people throughout the coffee supply chain, making the industry all the better for it. Show your support of these women-owned coffee businesses by ordering their coffee online or visiting their shops in person if you’re in their area.
[This list is in no way exhaustive or comprehensive. It’s just a very small slice of the great work women are doing in the specialty coffee industry. If you’re a woman-owned coffee business and you’re not on our list, let us know and we’ll add you to it!]