Does it matter that Needmore Coffee is a woman-owned coffee roaster? Our roastmaster, Katie, recently wrote about her own experience of becoming a coffee roaster and starting Needmore Coffee on the blog. In this story we wanted to talk a little more about what it means to be a woman in the male-dominated field of coffee roasting.

Where are all the women coffee roasters?

In 2016, 40 competitors entered the U.S. Roaster Championships. They were all men. In response, roasting guru Jen Apodaca, who was on the events committee of the U.S. Roaster’s Guild, created the #shestheroaster movement to draw attention to the gender gap in coffee roasting. The #shestheroaster movement harnessed the power of social media to spark conversation about diversity issues in the profession. In the few years since the social media movement began, the internet has amassed an expansive collection of images of women (as-well-as transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming) roasters. These incredible images feature the talents of diverse roasters and provide a space for networking and community development.

Apodaca, along with fellow roasters Joanna Alm Caitlin McCarthy-Garcia and Taylor Browne, has also formed a non-profit organization, called She’s the Roaster. Their mission is “To promote and encourage self-identifying womxn in the coffee industry to become professional coffee roasters.” She’s the Roaster offers financial assistance to women so that they can take coffee roasting courses and become instructors. They also host events and facilitate a mentorship network to “help create safe spaces for self-identifying womxn in the industry.”

The future of women in coffee roasting.

The #shestheraoster movement demonstrated that women are certainly working as roasters; they just lack visibility in the profession. The good news is the industry is changing. In April 2019 Coffee Review published a report on coffees submitted by women who work in coffee roasting as buyers, managers, and roasters. According to Kim Westerman, Coffee Review “recieved 110 samples for this report, a record-breaking number in the context of Coffee Review’s 21 years of monthly reports. And the overall quality was exceptionally high: 55 of these coffees earned scores of 90 or higher.”

This report certainly proves that these women are great at what they do, but that’s no surprise. The point we want to highlight is that 110 women roasters had the confidence to submit their coffees—a historic high for Coffee Review. “The only downside to this remarkable statistic” according to Westerman, “is that we can only report on the top 17” and there are so many women working in roasting who deserve recognition.