The mission of Swelter Coffee is to support female farmers through celebrating their hard work, and finding ways to reinvest back into their communities. Women make up a large percent of the coffee-producing workforce, yet many do not make a living wage, let alone have the opportunity to own their farms and have a say in their family business. By sourcing exclusively beans from female coffee producers/farmers, I aim to help bring awareness to this fact, and to showcase the skill and passion they bring to their work.
I grew up in the Pacific NW, where coffee shops have long been part of the culture. As a teen, I loved going to them, dreaming of having my own one day. I’ve enjoyed coffee for as long as I can remember, and considered myself a proud “coffee snob” rather early on. This snob status only really meant that I would stick my nose up at gas station coffee, or instant coffee — I really had no idea about anything. The dream of having a coffee shop really didn’t feel like it could become a reality, and didn’t align with what I thought I wanted in life: to travel, be creative, see the world. Like I said, I really had no idea about anything.
While living in NYC, my interest in environmentalism really started to grow. A result of being away from the natural beauty I took advantage of in the NW, the influence of some close friends, and a growing maturity and awareness of the world around me. I started paying attention to the food I bought, trying to understand where it was coming from and how it might affect my health. I finished my degree at design school and started working at an agency full of really amazing people — but longed to unite my career with my desire to make a positive difference. So, I moved to San Francisco, California.
A few years later, I stumbled onto a book by James Freeman of Blue Bottle, which included a few pages on how to roast coffee at home. The spark was lit. Being someone who likes to make things, I was baffled — I hadn’t known this was possible before. So, I got the equipment and started roasting coffee in my oven. At first I tried to achieve the dark roasts I had been buying at my local coffee shop, but really wasn’t successful at getting it dark enough. As I started drinking lighter and lighter coffees, I started to pick up on the different flavors from the different origins. This was really the beginning of appreciating and better understanding lighter-roasted coffee, and I was not going back.
Over many years of roasting for fun — first in my oven, then on a homeroaster, then on a sample roaster at a co-roasting space — the idea of formulating a business was brewing. But, I wanted a point of view, a purpose as to why I was going to add yet another roasting business to the very crowded coffee landscape (especially in the Bay Area). I was at a talk where environmentalist and author Paul Hawken was presenting some strategies outlined by his organization, Project Drawdown, on how to help curb climate change. One strategy in particular described how supporting women in agriculture with the same financing, education, and access opportunities as their male counterparts — globally — would divert a meaningful amount of emissions by maximizing land usage, and prevent the need to deforest more in order to support our growing global population. That struck me — by no means was it the biggest potential means of slowing climate change, but still was high enough to consider as a business strategy. That night I switched to only sourcing coffee beans from female farmers, creating my mission, my point of view.
Fast forward to early 2020, I started planning to officially kick off my roasting business after considering it a “side hustle” for many years. Then the pandemic hit, and I initially felt there was no way I could quit my day job to pursue my dream. But, after a few months the drive came back really strong, and I took the plunge. Merging my desire to create something for myself, make a difference in the world, advocate for issues I believe in, and my love of coffee and design, Swelter Coffee officially launched in the summer of 2020.
I am filled with excitement when I imagine one day being able to visit coffee farms abroad, building relationships with the farmers, and learning how I can best support them and their community. I want to help tell their stories to consumers (which is why I name each product after the farmer or coop who produced it). Grow a better understand of the work and skill that goes into every bean, and the uncertainty and hardship farmers face. Not every coffee consumer is ready to hear those stories, so finding creative ways to engage my customers and potential customers is an essential part of my work.