Laura González is the voice behind Strong Women of Coffee, a website and Instagram account that aims to highlight the unspoken heroes of the coffee world.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Claudia Catillo at Flaii fotografia
Representation matters. When we look at a picture on a bag of coffee or the baristas behind the bar at our favorite coffee shops, it can feel discouraging seeing the same faces over and over. Lots of folks are working to build more inclusive coffee communities—and we highlight some of those groups in the April + May 2019 issue of Barista Magazine, including Laura González of Strong Women of Coffee.
Laura, who is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, started Strong Women of Coffee as a passion project that would allow her to get to know and celebrate the often forgotten players in the coffee industry. “I started this project because I want the world to know the amazing women in the coffee industry,” Laura shares on her website. “When people hear the words ‘women in coffee’ I want them to picture strong, intelligent, fierce, bold women, working to make a difference in the industry.”
We wanted to learn more about Laura and Strong Women of Coffee, and were lucky enough to get to chat with her about this project and her place in the coffee industry.
Ashley Rodriguez: What are some of your earliest coffee memories?
Laura González: My earliest memories of coffee come from my grandmother; I remember her drinking her coffee every morning and afternoon. She only drank Nescafe, which was at the time what was available, and I remember her giving me coffee sometimes in espresso cups. The coffee was so diluted she called it “sock water,” but I just wanted to sit with her and drink coffee with my little white-with-flowers espresso cup—until my mom stopped her.
Did you grow up with coffee in your life?
After my grandmother stopped giving me coffee, I didn’t drink coffee until the first Starbucks opened in my city, it was so cool to go and get a Starbucks coffee.
When did you begin considering coffee as a career?
I’m fairly new to the coffee industry, so before I started to work at my current job I had no idea that you could make a career in coffee. I’m excited to see all the options that the coffee industry has to offer.
What is Strong Women of Coffee? Where did the idea come from? What are you hoping to do with the platform?
The idea of Strong Women of Coffee was born to show people who are not in the coffee industry the real people working in the coffee industry. Usually, people have this misconception of the people working in the coffee industry or have a limited idea as to who their baristas are, and they don’t realize the whole industry and people behind every cup of coffee. My motivation for this project is to bring much needed awareness and highlight the experiences and achievements of women in the industry.
What are some of the common issues or concerns that the women you’ve talked to have brought up?
I’m surprised by the number of women who say to me that they don’t have the confidence to talk about what they know and the knowledge they have. They feel like they don’t know and somebody else will tell them “oh no you don’t know,” but they know their thing and are very knowledgeable.
What has it been like to interview so many people—I interview a lot too, so I wonder how you take in people’s stories and experiences.
There are two different things. I learned a lot about interviewing people; this project has been very educational and I have gained a lot of respect for interviewers. I learned it is not easy to draw people out and get them to tell you what’s really on their mind. I admire people who have been doing it successfully. People might think it’s easy but it’s actually really hard
Second, the interviews have exposed me to the great diversity, commitment, and achievement of women in the industry. Another thing that I’ve noticed is being exposed to all the different ways various cultures deal with coffee as we become more global and we are exposed to different people and how they approach coffee.
What are you hopeful for? What do you think the coffee world needs?
I think the coffee world needs to put more attention on farms. Most of us are aware of the problems of women producers fighting to have the same respect, support, and opportunities as their male counterparts. It is such a big part of their culture and is so deep that I think many of us might not even understand and think it is unbelievable that there is still so much work to do on farms—to show men that women are equal and should have the same opportunities. So I’m hopeful they will get there—not sure if it will be soon, but hopefully soon enough.
What do you want people to know about you?
I have a dog named Poncho who I love very much. And I love to crochet! Five years ago, I was going through a hard time in my life and crocheting helped me a lot and I haven’t stopped since then.