Stronger Than Coffee: Five Women Producers Film Their Stories

Five women specialty-coffee producers from Costa Rica have documented their experiences for the film Stronger Than Coffee, which is screening during the Specialty Coffee Expo this week.


Stronger Than Coffee (in Spanish, Mas Que un Café) is a collection of five short (three- to five-minute) films self-directed by five women producers in Costa Rica: Ericka Mora of Cafe EyF; María Jiménez Chacón of Café de Altura – La Angostura; Tatiana Vargas of Café Llegados; Margoth Rivera of ASIPROFE; and Arleen Jiménez Chacón, also of Cafe de Altura – La Angostura.

The movie is screening during the Specialty Coffee Expo in Chicago on Friday, April 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. You can find out more information about the event here.

Two women look at a video camera.
Margoth Rivera and Alexa Romano learning how to operate the camera. Photo by Alexa Romano.

Women Producers Are Outnumbered

Although women make up an estimated 70% of coffee labor globally, only about 20% of farms are owned by women. Women have become more central to the specialty-coffee conversation in recent years. But they are still in the minority, and can struggle to be heard among the throng of other producers.

Stronger Than Coffee is one entry in the conversation on this multifaceted issue. The films were produced in collaboration with Bean Voyage and Needle + Frame. Bean Voyage is a 501c3, Costa Rica-based NGO whose mission is to build thriving businesses with smallholder women coffee producers; Needle + Frame is a 501c3 nonprofit that seeks to use filmmaking and storytelling to unite communities and inspire positive social change.  

A woman sits on the ground speaking into a camera on a tripod.
Arleen Jiménez Chacón practicing a self-interview before capturing others. Photo by Alexa Romano.

Behind the Lens

The film’s production team began speaking with these women at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. They wanted to better understand their lives and provide them with training and equipment to share their stories with the world via film.

Sunghee Tark, co-founder and CEO of Bean Voyage, explains some of the process behind the film. “We reached out to producers in Bean Voyage’s network who have previously expressed interest in storytelling in the initial selection and they had great stories to tell. … We started by hosting an in-person workshop to learn about equipment operations. (Then) we brought cameras and filming equipment including tripods and microphone to each of their homes (they are theirs to keep, to continue exploring their artistic curiosity) and hosted a workshop. After that, everyone met regularly on Zoom to storyboard, script, and review each other’s footage and provide feedback. It was a truly wonderful experience to see how the producers took ownership of their stories, immersed themselves into each others’ stories, related with them, and provided such thoughtful feedback!“

By its nature, film can leave out important details of a story; the camera can only capture a small part of the scene, and the edits will tighten or change the story further. Stronger Than Coffee is unique in that an outside observer isn’t in control of the narrative. The filmmakers are the women producers themselves; by harnessing the lens, they bring their own perspectives and accurately deliver those experiences to viewers.

“Two goals that the five producers wanted to achieve were to bring their stories in front of many coffee consumers around the world to show what we don’t often talk about, and also to have other women in coffee see themselves represented in the story,” Sunghee says.

The screen at a film screening. The image is of a green mountain, and is captioned: "This mountain keeps you grounded."
Screening event at the Women Powered Coffee Summit 2022 in Costa Rica. Photo by Felipe Araya.

The Reception So Far

The filmmakers have also been involved with screenings in Costa Rica. “The first screening was done at the Women Powered Coffee Summit in Costa Rica in 2022,” Sunghee says. “I remember the pin-drop silence followed by long applause when the film was over. People (the majority of whom were smallholder women coffee farmers in Costa Rica) were in tears, relating to the stories. … We hosted a panel conversation with the producers afterwards, and the questions and applause for them did not cease to come. Every screening ends with many people gaining greater clarity on what it means to farm coffee as women in Latin America, but also how the stories when told by women themselves can be so different to what we read and see traditionally in the industry.”

Stronger Than Coffee has been screened in other parts of the world, too: Seoul; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Berlin, to name a few. It will also be screening at the London Coffee Festival and the Skoll World Forum in Oxford this week.

A beautiful pink and blue clouded sky over a hill in San Marcos.
View from San Marcos, Tarrazu, where the in-person workshop took place (and where one of the producers, Ericka, lives). Photo by Alexa Romano.

Where To Watch

Stronger Than Coffee will be available for viewing during the Specialty Coffee Expo in Chicago on Friday, April 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. The screening will be held at the Morrison Family Foundation at 50 East Washington. There will be a Q&A and a brief intro to Bean Voyage at the screening, followed by a networking session.

You can watch the film’s trailer here. To RSVP for the Specialty Coffee Expo screening, inquire through email:


J. Marie Carlan (she/they) is the online editor for Barista Magazine. She’s been a barista for 15 years and writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. When she’s not behind the espresso bar or toiling over content, you can find her perusing record stores, writing poetry, and trying to keep the plants alive in her Denver apartment. She occasionally updates her blog.

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