Coffee News

Women in Coffee: Why It Matters That “She’s the Roaster”

Source:未知Author:admin Addtime:2018-08-28 Click:

Why Focus on Gender?

Before we consider these coffees, an important question: Why does it matter that the roasters of these exceptional coffees are women? At Coffee Review, we cup hundreds of coffees every month, identified only by number, and our impartial sensory evaluation of each coffee depends on our not knowing where it was grown, who roasted it, or the appearance of the beans or the packaging. All of these factors have the potential to influence our judgment of a coffee, and blind cupping allows us to focus on the inherent qualities of the cup. But then, when the ratings and sensory descriptions have been established, we get curious about the details of each coffee—in this case, about the roaster, in particular, who made a significant contribution to the end product.

In 2016, 40 competitors entered the U.S. Roaster Championships, sponsored by the Specialty Coffee Association; they were all men. Jen Apodaca, who was on the events committee of the U.S. Roasters Guild (now part of the Coffee Roasters Guild, having just merged with the Roaster Guild of Europe to form one body) spearheaded the hashtag #shestheroaster movement to emphasize the gender gap in the profession and to encourage diversity, initially by way of social media. Two years and 2,147 Instagram posts (and counting) later, images of women (along with transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming) roasters have flooded the Internet. Then Apodaca, along with roasters Joanna Alm, Taylor Browne and Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia, formed a non-profit organization, called She’s the Roaster to, as Apodaca says, “go beyond the hashtag and create scholarships and events for womxn [sic] to become roasters and network in the industry.”

Just one year after this flurry of outreach, Taylor Gresham, head roaster at Evocation Coffee in Amarillo, Texas, took third place as one of six women roasters who competed at the subsequent U.S. Roaster Championships. The simple, profound gesture of #shestheroaster has done more than simply get women roasters entered into competitions. It has also fostered community, mentoring relationships and professional access, and most importantly, it has put the industry on notice that women are here to stay, even in the historically male-dominated field of roasting.


Meanwhile, everyone wins, coffee-lovers and industry folks, alike. Craig Holt, founder of Atlas Imports and a longtime advocate of gender equality in coffee, said on a panel about women in coffee at the 2017 Specialty Coffee Association Expo: “It’s fairly apparent that, wherever women appear in the supply chain, quality is improved.” He made this remark casually, as if it were a given, and it’s a clear rationale for the work he’s done at origin, and as an importer, to support gender justice. It also carries the weight of personal narrative, expert opinion, and lived experience.

Mandy Spirito, who’s worked in the industry for 10 years (and identifies a non-binary femme), says, in a story that first appeared in Roast Magazine (now archived on Royal Coffee’s blog), that when she tried to break into roasting when the coffee shop she worked for needed another roaster on the production line, the owners said Spirito was “too small,” at 5’2″ and “weighed less than a bag of coffee.” They said they “needed someone stronger.” When Spirito moved to San Francisco, women-identified members of the roasting community, many of whom had encountered similar roadblocks, embraced her fully. She is now Director of Coffee at Halfwit Roasters in Chicago.