Celebrating Women in Coffee

As we near the end of women’s history month, we reflect on all the distinguished and talented women who play vital parts in the coffee supply chain, and remind ourselves that the month of March is not the only time to appreciate a demographic that is responsible for carrying out over 70% of the labor in the world’s coffee producing countries.

Our team was elated to attend a few recent events that highlighted accomplished women in the coffee industry. We attended the Barista League’s day-long “High Density” event, where we listened to Sara Morrocchi of Vuna Coffee Consultants discuss the true value of a green coffee contract between producers and buyers, and what happens when one side can’t honor the commitment of that contract. We also attended Talor Browne’s “Branding is a Dirty Word”, as we took a peak into how she built the sparkly world of shnazzy espresso drinks and gourmet doughnuts at her chain of coffee shops in Oslo, Norway: “TalorMade“.

We tuned in to the second episode of new coffee podcast “In Good Taste” on Spotify, where Ever Meister of Café Imports hosted Vava Angwenyi, founder of Vava Coffee Limited in Kenya, director of Gente Del Futuro in Tanzania, Colombia, and Kenya, and author of “Coffee, Milk, Blood”. On this episode, Vava explored the problematic manner in which the specialty coffee industry often portrays coffee producers in photographs. Classic photos show dirty hands sorting cherry, workers sweating through their clothes while harvesting in the beating sun or working at a washing station (and many times being photographed without consent). While these are all very real parts of the coffee industry, we rarely see photographs of coffee producers in a distinguished, polished light, or share producer’s stories that reach beyond the walls of the washing station.  

We also had the opportunity to attend an International Women’s Day Panel and Celebration, hosted by the Women in Coffee Project. The panelists discussed topics related to the intersection of race and gender in the coffee industry, and delved into why coffee professionals need to pay more attention to black consumers and to value the women who are “the backbone of the industry.” Panelists included Ciera Young of Mama’s Brew Coffee, Cydni Patterson of Caravela Coffee and Furaha Umwizeye of Kivubelt Coffee – Teuscher Invest Ltd.

While we celebrate the women that fuel this industry, it is also important to recognize the work that needs to be done in order to improve gender equality and equity in this industry. It should be no secret that women make up the overwhelming majority of the labor in the coffee supply chain (harvesting, sorting, field work), however rarely get properly recognized for their hard work and talent.

In a 2019 research article written by a co-founder of women-owned Floozy Coffee in Newcastle NSW, Priscilla Fisher examines the “existing literature base that explores women’s land rights within the coffee sector and the ways in which these might contribute to their empowerment.” Fisher found that women’s land rights in the coffee sector are under-researched and highly under-reported.

Fisher writes how persistent gender inequality exists most often in the form of limited land holdings for women coffee producers. “Land ownership has been identified as a key determinant of women’s empowerment and is reported to have important development outcomes for women in the broader agricultural sector.” Fisher digs into why limited land ownership is a constraint to their household decision-making power, control over income, and ability to join producer organizations and access technical training.

Fisher offered advice on what we can do to close the gender gap in the industry and how we can increase women’s land ownership rates. We must work to change our social norms – “whereby patterns of gender equality and social and traditional attitudes towards women are changing globally to allow for increased female land ownership”, and strengthen government policy, non-government policy, and program interventions that “directly influence women’s formal ownership of land through land titling programs and other redistributive initiatives or legislative frameworks.”

If you haven’t gotten a chance to read this article yet, we highly recommend that you do!

Zephyr is so proud to work directly with a women-run cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico named Anepaan. Since Anepaan’s conception 5 years ago, it has been managed by Isabel and Julieta, two women who have a goal of giving other women producers access to a competitive global market. The members of the Anepaan cooperative are 40% women, many of which having husbands that have migrated to the USA. The other 60% are young folks who inherited the land from their parents without knowing how to properly cultivate and produce coffee on it.

Isabel and Julieta’s role has been to work with the youth and female members to raise awareness of farm management – both agronomically and operationally. This has fostered a sense of confidence and pride within the community, as they are receiving education while making money (which they can re-invest into their farms). Anepaan’s focus is to increase production of differentiated coffee, as well as to produce honey and flowers. Today the farmers have a trees density of more than 4,000 trees per hectare. Anepaan produces 10-12 containers annually (all organic), 5 of which produced solely by women.

Please reach out to us to learn about Anepaan’s fresh crop offerings (beginning to ship in April) and how you can forward contract some of their coffee, which is all certified organic and on its way to being certified Fair Trade. 

We would love to take a moment to shout out the industrious, creative, and powerful women that make up the majority of Team Zephyr: Barbara, Patricia, Sofia, and Carina.

Have a wonderful rest of your week!

-Zephyr

More information on Anepaan Cooperative