We learn more about the founder of the Iranian Women Coffee Association.
BY TANYA NANETTI
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Mahsa Niyayesh
Mahsa Niyayesh is a successful woman born and raised in Iran. She’s a former barista and the founder of the Iranian Women Coffee Association, based in Tehran, Iran.
Many of us have an idea of what it is like to be a woman in Iran thanks to media coverage; we reached Mahsa to talk about her experience, the specialty-coffee world in Iran, and about what to expect from the future of specialty coffee there.
Tanya Nanetti: Hi Mahsa, tell us a little about yourself. What is your job? What are you doing in your life?
Mahsa Niyayesh: I’m Mahsa Niyayesh, originally from Tehran (Iran), and here I still live. I’m 30 years old and I’m the founder of the Iranian Women Coffee Association. Basically, my job is to properly run and organize this association: we offer services such as counseling and motivational training; we hold women coffee festivals and seminars; we reach out to women involved in every part of the coffee and tea chain (roasters, baristas, trainers, coffee sellers). My purpose in life is to help things get better and better, for all the women involved in the coffee world.
Many of us have an idea of Iran, and especially of the situation for women in Iran, that is simply given to us by the media. How is it actually?
What I can tell you is specifically related to the situation of women in the coffee industry. This idea occurred to me last year, thinking about the fact that in the Iranian media, we did not have anything representing women in the coffee industry, and that’s why, with many difficulties, I was finally able to open the association.
In a job environment, are women taken seriously?
It depends. Of course there’s still a centrality of men working, but more and more we can see that services such as maternity leave and insurance, as well as maternity services for Iranian women, are becoming my country’s priority.
In the years before the opening of the Iranian Women Coffee Association, many new organizations and associations opened, made by and for women: that is what inspired me to begin the association, the goal of trying to remove the problems of the patriarchy and racism in the Iranian coffee industry.
Slowly, men started to understand and now, finally, they believe that there are a lot of clever coffee women, often more empathic and more “artistic” in what they do. Nowadays we can see these women participating in all kinds of coffee competitions, (such as) in the Iranian Coffee Championship.
What does the association do? How many women are with you?
The Iranian Women Coffee Association first introduces the successful women in coffee in Iran, and then heads up various festivals, particularly those of Iranian coffee women. There are about 50 women with us right now, and this number increases every day.
Tell us something about your typical day.
Nowadays, my typical day is behind a desk, writing executive plans for my association, studying books and articles, and listening to podcasts related to business.
How is the specialty-coffee situation in Iran? Are there many interesting realities?
I can say for sure that the professional coffee status in Iran is very good. While we are boycotted from SCA, “veterans” of the coffee scene are on our side, and they’re helping the community to grow through online classes, specialized training, publications of books, websites, and podcasts in Farsi. They helped a lot in my professional growth, and that’s why I have always been grateful to the veterans of the Iranian coffee industry.
Are you going to a lot of specialty-coffee shops even in your free time?
Of course I do! After the lockdown months, when I used to make coffee and tea at home, now I’m back exploring the coffee world in Tehran. Whenever I’ve got a day off, I spend many hours visiting coffee shops together with my sister (who now is the chief secretary of our association).
What else do you do in your free time? Hobbies, etc?
Right now my focus is everything that concerns the coffee world. One of my hobbies is to read the coffee story of successful and strong women in the coffee community from all around the world.
What plans have you got for the future? What are your goals?
The most important goal I have in the near future is to be able to organize an international coffee festival here in Iran, held by members of the Iranian Women Coffee Association. Following the health protocols, we’ll start to organize something in the coming months.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.