In early August, the first Womxn POWERed Coffee Summit was held in Costa Rica. When I learned about this summit, I reached out immediately to attend as it seemed a perfect fit with my mission to support women coffee farmers. In addition to sourcing from women-run farms and exporters, I hope to grow Swelter Coffee to benefit women farmers – how that will happen is still TBD! This was the first step.
The summit was organized primarily by Bean Voyage with the intent to facilitate dialogue between women farmers in Costa Rica and coffee roasters in the U.S. and Costa Rica. Most of the panels and presentations were conducted in Spanish to ensure access for Costa Rican farmers, with a few presentations done in English of English-native speakers. Everyone was provided a device with which to listen to live translations, which was just incredible!
Through panel discussions and talks, the Summit provided many different perspectives and stories across all aspects of the coffee supply chain. Presenters showcased compelling data and personal stories, offering a unique glimpse into aspects of the trade.
A key element that was abundantly clear was the need for more dialogue and information. There is basically a whole in the system that creates the coffee supply chain, producers working with coops or exporters, and green buyers/roasters working with importers, with a lack of continues dialogue across to ensure transparency and equity. There also is clearly a gap in knowledge that can empower producers to know their coffee's worth on the global quality standard. Knowledge is power, and transparency leads to equity.
Beyond the stories, datapoints, and trends, what truly impacted me were the connections with all the amazing people. I will admit, large gatherings are not my thing, the introvert in me tends to take over. However, I still managed to meet many wonderful people - it actually seemed EVERYONE was amazing.
Connecting with other women working in the coffee industry was personally moving. Sarah and Gia from James Coffee Co, and Amaris from Joe Coffee and the founder of the Women In Coffee Project was such a pleasure. These individuals were so warm and easy to talk to, and had a wealth of knowledge and experience, compared to someone new to the industry like me. I also spent time with Giselle, founder of Latinas in Coffee and former program manager with Grounds for Empowerment. Her passion and energy for her work is infectious. Also, the transformational force behind Biotunes, Loretta was just a joy to spend time with and hear all her amazing stories in what seemed to be many lifespans.
And these were all outside of the core group that make Bean Voyage, a truly inspirational organization. The care and attention to detail they brought to their first summit was so impressive. Learning about what all they do, and how they connect so deeply with the local coffee-farming community is truly impressive. And all of them are probably 10+ years younger than me 🤣!
Stronger than Coffee
Another highlight was the premier screen of Stronger Than Coffee. This documentary tells stories from the perspective of 5 farmers in Costa Rica. They all shot and narrated their own films, working closely with the organization Needle and Frame to learn story-telling strategies. It's an amazing film, and everyone who loves coffee should watch it.
Doña Mayra Solis of Vamay Coffee
The last day of my trip we spent with two different coffee producing families: Vamay Coffee and Doga Coffee. Seeing their processing set up, meeting their kids who also work on the farm, and sharing a meal and coffee was truly the highlight of the trip. We had intended to tour the coffee farm of Vamay Coffee, however the previous days of rain left the roads up to the coffee bushes too muddy to be safe. But, regardless, these visits were truly transformational and heart warming. I cannot wait to go back and visit during harvest season and see all the action!
In the end, I hope to one day bring coffee into my offerings from the women behind Bean Voyage’s coffee family. Once I do, you definitely will hear about it, so keep an eye out.