Women in Coffee

What is the IWCA and what do they do?

This week I will have the great honor of learning much more about that, and about how to promote prosperity and equality, as I head off to Bogota Colombia to attend the 2015 International Women’s Coffee Alliance event, which will occur alongside Expoespeciales. I might even get to peek in on the Colombian Barista Championship!

The credible numbers vary a bit, but I am confident saying that worldwide the ladies shoulder a tremendous portion of the work involved in producing coffee while reaping a significantly smaller proportion of the benefits. Not all of the inequities on the world are the result of intentional abuse or discrimination, but regardless of the root cause of gender inequality in any of its many forms, the IWCA is on a mission.


Empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives; and to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry.

That sounds great. I like it! Over the years I’ve developed an appreciation for the roles of both men and women in bringing great coffees to your cup, and have always noticed how much of the work is done by women, but been surprised when I would see a woman in a leadership role. The cultures on coffee farms vary region to region, but an honest look will show an awful lot of B*****it. It’s nice to see an honest and practical effort to open up opportunities for the ladies of coffee.


This is Rebecca Villa, who runs Finca San Vicente in Peru. She has eight brothers, and the family partners together for the success of their coffee businesses. She is one sharp lady! I would have bought her coffee, but she had sold it all. Next year!

Any organization helping bring education, microloans, incentive programs and other support to producers is deserving of more than a shout out. After meeting Karen Cebreros a few weeks ago I mentioned that I had heard of the organization and the event. She literally slapped the table and shouted “GO! You will learn so much!”. It’s not so much that I am obedient, as that I am a respecter of enthusiasm but I obeyed. There is plenty that I need to learn about how to be of the most benefit to the people who grow and process our coffees, both male and female. I’ve been in coffee for 13 years, and have learned exactly three things

  1. The coffee is too damned cheap (See moderator quote regarding our moral obligation to screw the customer)
  2. There is always more to learn
  3. If you cup daily you are ahead of 90% of the pack

So in honor of the first two of those three things I have learned, I am heading off to Bogota. I hope to learn something that helps Swell Coffees work effectively as a partner to improve equality in the regions we are connected to via purchases and partnerships.

The act of becoming or being a socially just business is not as easy as it sounds. Of course there are costs associated, but more importantly it takes effort to learn what actions are most effective. Beyond buying at fair prices or choosing Organic, beyond visiting farms to see what we can see, as best we can, putting together a genuinely great program, well, even with fund in place it takes some work. So I am going to learn what I can, so that I can come back and do what I can, that works.

After the conference it is off to Medellin where I will cup and tour farms with Tusa Specialty Coffee, and Clear Path Coffees. Im looking forward to the whole visit, and hope to learn plenty to bring back to the team at Swell Coffees, and to present to our customers.


These are coffee cherries ripening on her farm. These cherries are a tad late for the harvest, but at least they did hang on for me to snap a picture.





No comments yet.

Leave a Reply