Gavina Coffee Solutions

Honoring The Women in Coffee – Women’s History Month

Women In Coffee

On its journey from seed to cup, every coffee bean encounters many skilled hands that will ultimately shape our coffee experience. In the specialty coffee industry, a majority of these hands belong to talented women who are experts in the field and provide consistent quality in every facet of the coffee supply chain. During the month of March, we are celebrating these women and their monumental contributions, and recognizing their influence within the industry and their communities.

Women are an indispensable asset and play a vital role in the continued success of the specialty coffee industry. However, their journey to gaining recognition for their massive contribution has not been a quick or easy one. There have been (and still are) obstacles associated with gender inequalities to overcome.


Women are still primarily viewed as homemakers and caretakers in many cultures around the world, which is especially true for countries that are the origin of various specialty coffee products. However, women, who are a part of a farming family, play a major role that extends beyond the household and into the coffee fields.

Despite some cultures not allowing them to own land, women are the keepers of the fields and execute most of the work at the initial segments of the value chain. A 2018 study by the International Coffee Organization reported that women contribute 70% of the labor that goes into coffee production. From planting to harvesting to selling, the female workforce at these origin coffee farms shapes the specialty coffee experience in our morning cup of coffee.

According to Leonor Gaviña-Valls, V.P. of Marketing at Gaviña Coffee and a 3rd generation family member, “here, and in origin countries, women have to take care of the home, the husband, the father, the mother, everybody, plus the farm. It’s not an 8-5 job. It’s even much more than a 24/7 job.”

During a recent discussion with Leonor, she fondly recounted an experience with a local coffee farmer in Africa that further displayed the lack of coffee knowledge for women in the community. “There was a woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo and she was extremely proud of her coffee. But when we tasted it, it tasted like potato. Q-graders just said ‘no, we are not going to taste it anymore.’ She was so disappointed.” The inability to accept this woman’s coffee for further evaluation stemmed from a deeper issue. These women did not have the proper training, education, and financial opportunities they needed for success.


Only in recent history have women started to claim leadership positions in the coffee industry. In the 1960s and ’70s, opportunities began to open up for women that went beyond the initial harvesting and exporting. “It was a Coffee Revolution,” Gaviña described. In the mid-1970s, a frost took a severe toll on Brazilian crops, causing coffee prices to quadruple worldwide. This resulted in consumers looking for better quality coffee than what was available at the supermarket, and that’s when coffee by country of origin, different levels of roasts and flavors started to make its presence, not only at coffee houses, but in the grocery aisle as well. This revolution allowed women to become more involved in other facets of the industry.

Many women became experts in the coffee brew and began taking initiative by opening their own businesses. In 1982, a small group of coffee industry professionals founded the Specialty Coffee Association of America as a platform to discuss the issues and quality standards in the specialty coffee trade. F. Gaviña and Sons, Inc. was among the founding members and played a large role in the Association’s success and progress. Among the family at this time was Leonor Gaviña-Valls, who would go on to become the first female president of the association.

Now, we are thankfully seeing women in all facets of the coffee industry. “One lady that I greatly admire is Sunalini Menon. She  was the first woman to be a member of the Coffee Board of India, a coffee expert, a Q-grader, and established her own company, Coffeelab in Bangalore, India. All over the world, many women have gone through and made themselves noticeable in a man’s world,” said Leonor. At Gaviña, we are proud to have six Q-grades, with four of them being women. As proven by all of the amazing progress made in recent history, women are essential to the ongoing success of the industry as a whole.


Over the years, there have been many efforts to increase awareness of the gender disparities in the coffee industry. However, despite the increased attention to narrowing gender gaps in recent years, women in coffee still have reduced access to important resources, such as land, accreditation, and general information.

Organizations like the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA)  empower women in communities around the world to participate and achieve more in all aspects of the coffee industry. Formed in 2003 by women from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the United States, the IWCA gives women in origin and consumer countries alike the resources and knowledge they need to achieve their goals. Many great sponsors have recognized the importance of supporting the IWCA’s initiatives including recognizing the efforts and contributions of women in the industry and mentoring younger women to be more active leaders in the industry.

The Coffee Quality Institute has also launched a Partnership for Gender Equity program, which develops solutions to address the gender gaps and integrates these solutions into producer organizations. Additionally, there have been many events and resources wherein women are offered a platform to speak and listen in a supportive and inspiring environment.

“The beauty is that people are recognizing that we need to give women the tools to get trained and educated so that it fosters a healthy, productive environment and keeps the industry progressing forward,” said Lorena Martinez, Senior Brand Manager of Gaviña Coffee.

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we would like to thank all of the incredible women on our team and in our industry for their contributions to our continued success.

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