After reading a “best of” list of baristas in a local newspaper, Brittney Balestra noticed there were no womxn mentioned. So she created her own award celebrating womxn in the Colorado Springs coffee scene.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
If you’ve ever picked up a local paper, you’ve probably seen some form of a “best of” list—a collection of a city’s top restaurants, bars, and other establishments that make a city great. As Brittney Balestra of Third Space Coffee in Colorado Springs, Colo., checked the Colorado Springs Independent’s list of folks nominated as the best baristas in the area, she noticed a glaring omission: There were no womxn on the list.
“I read down the five-person list, and when I reached the bottom my heart felt like it fell out of my chest,” Brittney shares. “I’ve been in the specialty-coffee community for over two years and I’ve seen, heard, and experienced a lot of underlying sexism, and favoritism toward the men in coffee … but when I saw this, I honestly felt enraged with both anger and hurt.”
Brittney shared the article and local responses on Instagram, and eventually caught the attention of the owner of Third Space, Rowland Smith. “[Roland] reached out to me about all the stories/posts I had been posting on Instagram and I explained the grievances felt by all of the womxn of this community, and he basically put it into my hands and offered to aid in any way he could,” Brittney said, so she decided to start her own list.
Brittney put together the Womxn in Coffee Award, a prize similar to a best-of list where local residents can write in and vote on their favorite baristas. Voters are asked to vote for their favorite barista who “represents and furthers the coffee culture in Colorado Springs, shows an outstanding effort to build a pathway enabling women to build careers in coffee, actively exhibits a community attitude, shows a professionalism and passion for their craft, and consistently makes an effort to enhance their coffee knowledge and build further into coffee.”
The list, which is about 25 baristas deep, will be whittled down to three winners to be announced at Third Space Coffee’s October 30th Halloween Throwdown. Local organizations like Lady Fingers Letterpress and Coffee People Zine have pledged their support, and the event has caught enough attention and momentum that Brittney anticipates this will be a yearly happening. “I in no way had any intention of bashing or creating a reprimand for the COS Indy, but rather to create an awareness of how womxn are constantly pushed to the side and questioned in terms of their skill, abilities, and education,” Brittney shares. “My intention with this movement was to create a message, to get people thinking, and to create a change even if it was only a few steps at a time. I had no clue it would blow up this big in such a short time, but I have had countless individuals reach out to me asking how they could help and offering up anything they could to aid the cause.”
Brittney would love your help if you’re interested in supporting! You can send an email or drop a line on Instagram. If you’re in the Colorado Springs community, vote for your favorite baristas today—and if you don’t see their names, add them in!