Do women make better baristas?
This was a question that was asked to me during a bit of a press blitz this past fall. The question was asked through Google Translate over e-mail. I initially chalked up the question to a translation error. But, I got a reassurance in the form of it being asked again:
“Is seems that women have something to show in coffee. Are there two really two genres in coffee ? And what would be the difference between both? (maybe this is a silly question).. Are women better coppers for example ?”
Now obviously, there’s still a bit of a translation issue at play, but the intention is pretty clear. Do women have something to show in coffee? What’s the difference between men and women?
It may be a silly question, but I didn’t give a very silly answer. Instead, I said:
“Women have always had something to show in coffee, but because of the way our industry and world operate, our talents, skills, voices and literal physical bodies haven’t been valued as highly as our male counterparts. The barometer of industry-wide quality being visible and expensive competition attract people who have access to money, cutting edge technology and expensive, high scoring coffees. In the history of specialty coffee, those people have been white men. When the decks are stacked with the people who have the best access to these resources, it appears like they’re the “best of the best” when in actuality, they just have better privilege. Implicit bias of judging based on gender presentation also has a huge affect on whether or not women and gender non-conforming people gain visibility through advancement in competition. What makes the NYC Coffee Masters 2017 final so incredibly special, is that Agnieszka and I were two of four women, in a field of 16 competitors. Our sheer talent got us there, even if the numbers were not in our favor.
I don’t agree for a second that competition accurately reflects someone’s skillset as a well-rounded and successful coffee professional. It’s a recital, and if you’ve had a private lab with cutting edge industry equipment, a coach, access to 90+ coffee, time to devote to training and the money to pay for all of it- you WILL do better than those who don’t have access to any of that. Again, a majority of people with access to that have been white men.
The differences between men, women and gender non-conforming people are rooted in visibility, privilege and accessibility to resources. There is absolutely no qualifier of gender being the reason why someone is “better” at making coffee than anyone else. It’s about accessibility to resources, which is something privileged people have an easier time with than those without.
That being said, it is my own personal mission to elevate and support every woman and gender non-conforming person who is brave enough to enter the competition spotlight and put their mettle and talent on display. They deserve a wildly vocal cheerleader gassing them up and propelling them forward. That cheerleader should be all of us.”
I never heard back from the journalist whether he liked my answer or not, and I’ve since received no word about my interview being published.