Sierra Burgess-Yeo is the founder of the Kore Directive, a London-based group for womxn in the coffee industry.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Carolyn West
Ashley Rodriguez: Can you tell us about your coffee background—how did you get into coffee? What do you do now?
Sierra Burgess-Yeo: I stumbled into coffee as most people do—juggling university and a part-time job to pay the rent! It became pretty evident early on that I enjoyed the work; I’ve always enjoyed being on my feet, talking to people, and making things with my hands.
When it became obvious that I wasn’t going to pursue a career in linguistics (my bachelor’s) and that coffee was becoming more and more of a passion I didn’t want to relinquish, the choice was easy. The industry is fascinating, especially its continued intention to be open, traceable, sustainable … we’re still working on these goals and there’s a long way to go, but it was what drew me, that desire to keep improving ourselves as a collective. And the people are lovely. I’ve been in coffee for five years now, in total.
What inspired The Kore Directive? Was there a particular experience?
Yes, unfortunately. The last couple of jobs I worked were fairly short-term, and I was finding it hard to progress in any way—be it via promotional opportunities, taking skills or classes, receiving competition support. … Things came to a head in the last job I had, where:
-The gender ratio was very skewed in my time at the shop
-I was the only womxn-of-color there
-Little to no support in training, competition, or even (racially related) harassment concerns despite repeatedly raising it with management.
How would you describe The Kore Directive? What is your mission, and what goals do you have for the organization?
The Kore Directive aims to help womxn in coffee in London and beyond to network with one another. We aim to provide support and a space for womxn to be themselves, and to discuss gender issues at large that affect us all, regardless of how we may identify. In addition, we aim to be running workshops, programs, and regular cuppings to help womxn gain the skills they need to broaden their career opportunities in the industry, as well as put them in a position where they may meet other womxn waking similar paths.
What sort of programming and support will you provide?
We’re aiming on doing relevant several workshops, talks, and/or panels this year with the overarching aim of allowing womxn to network, but also to discuss issues that affect us all. Events are mostly open to everyone, with a womxn-focused perspective—for example, our No-Waste-Latte-Art competition will feature all-womxn competitors, but absolutely anyone can attend to spectate and support.
Can you tell us a little bit about the coffee scene in London? How will the Kore Directive address issues specifically affecting womxn in London?
The coffee scene in London is pretty tight and friendly, but as a whole (from my perspective) we’re only really starting to open up and openly discuss issues pertaining to gender and discrimination, as it can be an incredibly touchy subject when we relate it to work and the workplace. For most people, it can be challenging to find support or recognition/acknowledgment that this is even a problem, which is invalidating not just to the individual experiencing the problem, but further serves to sweep the issue under the societal rug.
I no longer think that’s an option, not after last year. And we’ve seen such support from the London community where we’re currently based, which makes us realize that this is a void that needs to be filled.
What do you want people to know about your organization? How can folks get involved?
We are mainly active on Instagram as of now, but you can find out more information on future events at our website; you can sign up to be part of our mailing list and community there as well. We update information periodically, as and when we have the details confirmed! We also have a Facebook page but are aiming to create a Facebook group to better facilitate discussion and community!