The Coffeewoman held its seventh gathering at A 2nd Cup in Houston, tackling issues of harassment, gender identity, and career advancement in the coffee industry.
BY RAECHEL HURD
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos by Andrea Fernandez for The Coffeewoman
The Coffeewoman, an event series that has traveled to Seattle, Portland (Ore.), Providence (R.I.), Puerto Vallarta (Mexico), Berkeley, Calif., and Amsterdam, landed in Houston on Saturday, March 31. The event, which celebrates the women, gender non-conforming, gender queer, and transgender members of the coffee industry, took place at A 2nd Cup Coffee, a café and nonprofit that provides a safe space for victims of human trafficking. Cherry Roast founders Kristyn Wade and Elle Jensen were the keynote speakers, and they greeted attendees at the door as they walked in to gather with other coffee professionals, enjoy snacks, and talk about issues affecting marginalized members of the community.
The event began with a mini-Cherry Roast competition, which is a coffee competition exclusively for women, transmasculine, non-binary, and gender queer folx created in 2015 in Denver. Contestants poured beverages using Pacific’s Barista Series Rice in a throwdown. Instead of a traditional throwdown, contestants snapped a picture, and the top six photographs moved on to a final triangulation round to be had later in the night.
After the pouring round, Coffeewoman director Sarah Allen gathered folx toward the stage. Accomplished women coffee professionals then spoke to a variety of topics. These included imposter syndrome, vulnerability, safety, work ethic, and sexism. These topics manifested themselves in the form of panels, poems, and keynote speeches.
To start the night, Elle Jensen gave the first half of the keynote speech on café ownership. She spoke about providing a safe space for employees, and realizing that being an owner is, in fact, that. “Sometimes being an owner is doing the taxes, sometimes being an owner is creating a space for employees to feel comfortable,” said Elle. Being a former barista, Elle founded Amethyst on the principle of the space being for baristas and by baristas. This speech set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Kristyn followed Elle with the second half of the keynote, this being an original poem she wrote for the event. It was moving and inspiring—please see the end of this post to read it in its entirety.
Sarah Allen returned to the stage to moderate the first panel, called, “How Did I Get Here (Exploring Careers in Coffee).” The panel included: Aida Batlle, Ashley Lai, Stacy Wright , and Camila Topke. Sarah asked: “Have you ever faced problems because of your gender identity?” Aida responded by saying, “Working alongside my team to show them that I would never ask someone to do something I wouldn’t do,” created respect. This respect helps Aida produce top-quality coffee. Ashley answered a crowd question: “How do you help other women in your workplace?” “Ask for more from your employer. Workers have rights and should feel their voice matters,” Ashley said.
Take-aways from this panel
- Hard work pays off, be willing to do the same work you ask of your employees
- Ask more of your employer. Ask for classes, trainings, trips to origin, anything
- Create your own position if need be
After a brief intermission, Kristyn read a poem that set the tone for the next panel. Scroll down to see the poem in its entirety.
Elle moderated the second panel, titled “Sexual Harassment in the Coffee Workplace.” Panelists included Oodie Taliaferro, Niken Prabanto, Kaitlin O’Brien, Becky Reeves, and Kathryn “Kat” Melheim. Becky and Kaitlin shared first-hand accounts of sexual harassment, and gave advice on how to address it. Becky said, “record everything about an inappropriate situation,” and “note the time, place, context, exact words, and how it made you feel.” Kat stated, “Texas is a single-consent state in regards to recording audio. If you consent to an audio recording, you can record a conversation.” Kat also said there are two types of workplace sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environments. Head over to (www.coffeepeople.org) to read more about these definitions.
Take-aways from this panel
- If you are in an unsafe situation: get out. No job is worth your safety or sanity. The coffee community is large and will find a safe space for you.
- Employees need to hold their employers accountable. Ask for protection, ask for rights. Employers are liable.
- Know your rights specific to your state
- Give your employees the tools necessary to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Talk about it more often than that one time during on-boarding.
After the second panel, the Cherry Roast Kristyn announced the Cherry Roast finalists. Those finalists then moved on to a triangulation round to determine first, second, and third place. The scores were so close that it came down to the time it took to complete the triangulation. Savannah Childers (production roaster, Boomtown Coffee) won the competition.
The night ended with socializing and celebrating. There are more events like this on the horizon for Texas. Groups such as Dallas Coffee Gxls and SheBrews (Austin, TX) have emerged. They plan to create space for folx and have plans to host events of their own.
Come gather round friendsWherever you might BeTo sit and hold space for this anthology.This said story describes ever so lushlyA most compelling breathing with majestic feelingFelt in your toes to your hair throwsSo friends:
- sit up
- attune to your breath
- listen to this decree
- and leave knowing youre creating more space for the Coffee Tree of Thee.It starts with the apronThe seed of knowledgeThe hint of glassy craftThe worldly connectionThe love of green beans at ever long lastThe tasteThe creationThe fixationThe sensationThe uncomfortableThe confusingThe realizationThe 2018 unfoldingThe nothingsThe everythingThe industryThe collectiveThe humanThe heartbreaksThe heartbeatsThe solutionThe seed …The seed is first set to spread to the feetThe moving spirit who unites our grand leapThe dancers of the espresso dietsThe foundation for the workers to unleashWhat is pureWhat is trueWhat is sound …Will resound like a volcano mound underneathAnd fiercely abound at any peakThe fire is hotThe first crack is spoken and heardDevelopment begins.The legs of fearlessness standing completeArise and align with the heatBecause like steele and strideHow we walk and beat is our alibiFeel your legsLove your legsBe the legsYou must move forward to release our feetYou must want to move forward to be the reliefThese anchored columnsThese strife timesHold us to the dear mother earth vibeWhen all seems awkward and all so very awryThe center of our coffee coreIs how industry longevity and love will endureBeing built from our genitalia loreAll the way up to our hearts galoreThe beat of the chestThe beat of the communityThe beat of the unityIt is this community that brings in the nestIt is this community that finds whats truly bestFrom a strong stance and posture checkWhat you convey is what you are to directWith an iron shield of light and graceIt will always take you to the next placeWith a desire deep rooted in silent calm truthYou know exactly what and who, makes you, you.And with that truth the speech humbly decreessomething so beyond words and humilityThe understanding that what is spoken is matterAnd that all those scars and bruises can heal the tatteredAllow this song to let you seeThe composer wands that lay at your golden seat.Those arms and finger and toes that give you leverageCan guide and direct others in their own way of the beverage.How we writeHow we uniteHow we tryHow we do or don’t complyWith a waive of the penWith waves of the middle appendageWith the strength of all the workerswe lift this heavy burden togetherWe set fire to this heavy barrel togetherSet fire to the shed by speaking from your heartKnowing that what you say is keyFor others to realize how truly we are all freeNo means no means noYes brings acceptanceYes brings attentionYes brings successionIn this binary conforming old world, how can we make room for the rest of whats in store?The words set forth by this Coffeewoman cryCan be found all over the world by the genders who can’t testifyYour message is felt in the four corners of the feetYour journey of unique discovery is how the world can releaseAs the glittered plastic crowns of shame and guilt fall to the groundAllow the volcano to absorb it into the moundsForgive your blessed and tired feetForgive your sworn enemy, for perhaps they truly don’t know how to speak.Give them their drink created with arms and fingers of loveAnd allow the water of life to extract into their very own bloodThe eyes of change and chains awakenThe ears of damnation and salvation vibrate with realizationThe lips uttered in sourly nothingsEvolve into something quite beyond our knowingThey do not know what they do not seeSo be the change that allows all the pins to be seenBe the one that picks them up from their tripped seat.Oh you dearest tried and true coffee personPut on the apron transparency and truthRoast the beans with 100% individual youPick the cherry with an eternal viewThat everything we genuinely speak say and doWill always find its way back aroundto shine light on the compounds and flavonoids that make us quite humanly brewed.
Raechel Hurd is a coffee educator at Epoch Coffee. She splits her time between rock climbing, hanging out with dogs, and watching latte art pours on Instagram.