The Womxn-POWERed Coffee Summit looks to create lasting bonds between women producers, roasters, and coffee professionals.
BY SARAH ALLEN
Photos courtesy of Bean Voyage
While on a trip in 2014 to co-organize a project for smallholder women in southern Costa Rica, Sunghee Tark and Abhinav Khanal were struck by the gender-based discrimination and challenges they witnessed facing women coffee producers. As they pondered the question of how they might help, Abhinav and Sunghee came up with the idea for their nonprofit, Bean Voyage. Officially established in the spring of 2015, Bean Voyage today is based in San Jose, Costa Rica, where the team is focused on improving access to knowledge and market connections in an effort to help build an equitable value chain for smallholder women coffee producers.
Launching the Womxn-POWERed Coffee Summit
After years of on-the-ground work with women producers, Bean Voyage will host the conference Womxn-POWERed Coffee Summit (WPCS) August 11–12, bringing smallholder women coffee producers together with women roasters and professionals.
Designed to be an intimate forum for sharing, brainstorming best practices, and lending support, WPCS has very limited space. Interested parties should RSVP to secure their spot by July 25. The event will be held at Doka Estate in Alajuela, Costa Rica.
Topics on the Agenda
Each of the two full days of activities will include panel discussions, break-out discussion groups, and opportunities for networking. Topics include:
• Panel: Supply chain from the perspective of smallholder women to women coffee roasters. Panelists: Delfina Porras Solis, Vamay Coffee; Sarah Girdzius, James Coffee Co.; and Maria Paz Lobo, The Coffee Source.
• Coffee Pricing and the unspoken dynamics in the supply chain. Speaker: Xinia Chaves, executive director at ICAFE.
• Let’s talk about cupping: accessibility, standardization, and inclusivity. Speaker: Jen Apodaca, Mother Tongue Coffee.
Other special events include a screening of the documentary, Más Que Un Café (translation: Stronger Than Coffee); a hands-on tasting workshop showcasing coffees from the 2021–22 harvest in Costa Rica; a special discussion with Itzel Mendoza of Colectivo Rokunin in Mexico about the unique Las Flores del Cafetal Project; and much more.
A Quick Q&A with Sunghee Tark, co-founder of Bean Voyage
In the midst of putting together what is to be an epic opportunity for women in coffee, Sunghee was kind enough to sit down for an interview about the focus of the event and what she and her team hope it will accomplish.
Barista Magazine: The idea of bringing women producers together with U.S. roasters, cuppers, and baristas is unique—it’s never been done to our knowledge as a stand-alone event. Why is now a perfect time for such a focused conference?
Sunghee Tark: While we believe there have been a few other initiatives to host forums in producing countries to help foster relationship-building between producers and roasters, from what we understand, this is the first event that features women and gender-diverse individuals at the center of the conversations. As we have continued to work with smallholder women coffee producers, we have been realizing more and more each year of the need for a platform/space where women can safely and freely come and share their insights, experiences, and expertise. This is also another opportunity for us to go beyond our “classroom setting” for the women producers to meet each other, learn about their stories, and build stronger communities to confront the challenges, and conspire together to build a value chain that’s truly equitable and sustainable.
BMag: What do you hope the smallholder women coffee producers will learn? What tools/education will they leave with?
Sunghee: They will be hearing directly from other coffee professionals about how to interpret cupping scores, correlations between pricing and cupping scores, what to expect when one sends samples to a “direct-trade buyers,” storytelling done in different ways (music, art, documentary, etc.), evolution of roasted coffee markets in both the U.S. and Costa Rica, processing evolutions in Costa Rica in different regions as well as getting an insight into interpreting the coffee market prices, and experiences to overcome the uncertainty in the market. More than anything, we want them to gain practical tools and tips to better position their coffee in the market to fetch fairer, better prices, and build relationships with people who can be with them on the journey.
Here is a bit more from Bean Voyage: Bean Voyage partners with smallholder coffee producers who self-identify themselves as a woman. In using the word WOMXN, we have been inspired by the Spanish language’s use of “X” to refer to any women and gender-diverse individuals. Your thoughts and comments are welcome as we make our work more inviting and inclusive. Please email us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.