May 20, 2016

IWCA / Women in Coffee Update

By Christine Cottrell
What began as the idea to form an Australian chapter of the IWCA has morphed into something different and bigger than expected – as more and more women (and men) are getting involved with the Women in Coffee networks springing up in the various states.

At a recent meeting in Brisbane at Café Biz well over 20 women from across three states attended. Seemingly what women want is to connect and share. They want to support each other as women working in the coffee industry and they are keen to help others in coffee producing communities where women struggle with basic necessities. Two such projects were discussed.

Firstly, Leigh Carmichael, training manager from Veneziano Coffee Roasters, Brisbane explained her initiative of a not-for-profit café she’s setting up and her goal to get personal care packs into the hands of women working on coffee farms – all inspired by a recent trip to India where she was confronted with the basic needs women face and which we women take for granted.

Secondly, Kristine Edwards from Café Culture International and I reported on an initiative we stumbled upon at the SCAA Event in Atlanta last month. The Humble Smile Foundation was started by a dentist who’s putting toothbrushes made from bamboo (biodegradable) in the hands of children in remote poverty stricken areas where dental disease is rife. This is run through schools where teachers are shown how to make toothpaste from local ingredients. Some are also trained as dental technicians. Go to for more information.

If you would like to get involved with one or both of these initiatives, please jump behind Leigh in Queensland and Kristine in NSW and contact them directly – to find out what you or your company can do to help.

Another project we‘ll be supporting in Queensland next month is Bloom Asia, an organisation plucking young girls from the most appalling situations of human trafficking in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Cebu in The Philippines. As part of their emotional healing, the girls are taught skills to run the Bloom and Blossom cafes and to produce beautifully decorated cakes, some of which stand higher than they do.

You are invited to attend a film night in Brisbane to raise money in support of the amazing and selfless individuals who do this work. Check out what they do at or email me at if you’d like to attend, as I have 20 tickets put aside for us at this stage. Cost is $40 and it’s at 5.45pm on 9th July at the private cinema New Farm 61. Film is ‘You before me’. I’ve seen the trailer and it’s a real ‘feel good’ movie. There’ll be welcome drinks, lucky door prizes and raffles, a short 7 minute video on the work they do and you will get to meet Ruth Larwill herself, the director of the organisation.

This is a small but important step as it represents the first fundraising initiative of an Australian Women in Coffee network. We aim to inspire others to follow. Remember that small steps do make a difference.

At a meeting during MICE in Melbourne, it was clarified that our needs are not empowerment or equality with our male colleagues (as is the case in many producing countries). Rather it’s to ‘balance the numbers’, since approximately 10% of those working in the coffee industry are women. And our male colleagues are as keen as we are to see this happen.

To that end, we’re looking into a project in Europe that aims to attract more women into coffee competitions. Jo McKay-Engdahl from NordCoffee/Moccamaster in Perth and Hannah Hutonen from Melbourne Coffee Merchants have put their hands up to connect with those running this project to investigate the feasibility of being involved or if we can ‘piggyback’ on their ideas in some way. We also have other ideas in mind, which will be reported on in due course.

As well as the Women in Coffee Networks in WA and Qld, Kristine Edwards has put up her hand to initiate Women in Coffee NSW. Although we have women in Sydney willing and waiting to host a gathering at their cafes/roasteries, we would like to hear from you if you’d like to host one at your place as well. Networks in other states are still brewing.

We also ask you to get behind Maria Paoli from Melbourne Coffee Tours. Inspired by a discussion with her good friend Elenora Genovese at the 2014 World of Coffee in Rimini Maria has set up the Australian Women in Coffee Association. (not to be confused with Deb Knight’s networking group Women in Coffee Australia which she has run through her business Knight Mattingly Coffee Roasters for some time now and who is also supportive of what we are doing).

In Maria’s own words, “the Australian Women in Coffee Association has been established to unite all Aussie women in coffee, past and present.We have women in regional areas and remote parts of our country who are contributing greatly, yet because of logistics, distance and commitments many may not have a network to reach out to.I hope that through social media and a love for our golden elixir we can offer friendship, support, coaching and mentoring.”

 Membership is available to all women in coffee. There is no fee.

Application forms are available by emailing

A Facebook page has also been established

Lastly, I want to assure you that the possibility of an Australian Chapter of the IWCA may well be one of the outcomes of the Women in Coffee networks – but only when we, as a group, feel we are ready. Also when we have enough women with the time and skills do the time consuming work (of overseeing the legal work done by solicitors, of collaborating with those in other states on the writing of role descriptions and by-laws that suit our diverse needs etc.) Also when we feel we have women with the right mix of dedication, skill and time we can nominate to take on the responsibility of the legal roles involved. We would be keen to set up this chapter properly.

I had a formal meeting with four representatives from IWCA International in Atlanta and it was encouraging that they agreed with me on this and for them to say that it’s not unusual for this process to take two years. They were keen to hear about our progress to date and the various issues we are facing. I’m pleased to report also that the lines of communication with IWCA International are now open and Blanca Castro is our new mentor. In a forthcoming update I’ll be mailing out to all on the database, with more details on the outcomes of the meeting. If you are not sure if you are on the database, please contact me at


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