By Marcel Reyes, SDCN Staff Writer. Photos by Julie Rings, SDCN Contributor.
Karen Cebreros, President and Founder of Women of Coffee Inc., member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America for over 18 years and is a Founder of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA), is no stranger to speaking passionately about women in coffee to huge crowds. Underneath the starry ceiling installation of the Museum of Photographic Arts’ Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater, she introduced the film while earnestly describing the noble call-to-action of the Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund, committed to providing a creative and sustainable approach to achieve women's economic equality and stability.
But there was a special gravitas to her voice as she emphatically declared San Diego to be the “conscious corner of coffee” in the US, to resounding applause. “Organics were born here, the first licenses for fair trade were born here, and we pioneered microcredit in coffee here,” Karen said.
May 20, 2015 was a special evening dedicated to highlighting the gender equity that continues to be an issue for women in coffee, from small origin farms to large corporations, the San Diego Coffee Network film screening of “A Small Section of the World” at the MOPA was also an earnest plea to recognize the need for greater financial resources to make their way back to the farmers, as revenues funnel through the supply-chain from tree to cup. This film event is the first collaboration between Daymar Coffee Roasters, Pureflo Water and the San Diego Coffee Network, and is the second educational coffee film that the SDCN has screened since last year’s “A Film About Coffee.”
The doors opened at 6pm for a pre-event mixer where the sponsors Earth's Choice Organic Coffee Company, Daymar Coffee, PureFlo, and InterContinental Coffee Trading offered samples of women-sourced organic coffees and expertise to the special room of 140 coffee enthusiasts. Corner Bakery offered a bevy of pastry selections to complement the PureFlo Café coffees, PureFlo’s special partnership with Daymar Fine Coffees and the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
The support of industry professionals was eminent. We were honored to have guests from various coffee companies in our city. Large support came from the teams of Café Moto, Café Virtuoso, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, InterAmerican, and Kettle Coffee and Tea all the way from Escondido! Also, we were incredibly humbled to have both Martin Diedrich and Mansi Chokishi, who drove from OC just for this event. The social hour was packed with great energy. Introductions and coffee talk were punctured by laughter and warm hellos.
Major sponsor Earth’s Choice Organic Coffee Company, sourcing from Chiapas and Guatemala, partners with local organizations and businesses to bring microfinance services to women organic coffee producers through the Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund. These women producers invest their business loans in new or current ventures. Their business earnings repay the loans and provide support for health, nutrition and education for their families and communities.
Collaborations between passionate individuals create a far-reaching impact. Earth’s Choice Café seeks to bring sustainable consumption of coffee to the masses, via an automated café. Attendees had the opportunity to see the machine in person and enjoy demos. Daymar Coffee is roasting the coffee sourced by Earth’c Choice.
Karen Cebreros, Roy Gallegos of Daymar Coffee, Kelly Cosby of PureFlo, and Lisa Colon of InterContinental Coffee Trading spoke to the audience as well prior to the film.
“A Small Section of the World, directed by Leslie Chilcott, is an inspiring documentary that tracks the Asomobi coffee farm's incredible journey of female entrepreneurship in a remote farming region of the world - from a discouragingly male chauvinistic business culture, through a series of literal and emotional fires, to a destined meeting with an illy Executive that forever changes an economy.”
Following the film, Karen Cebreros invited the largely female staff of InterAmerican Coffee to the stage, introducing them as glass ceiling breakers. Sheridan Owings Banta lead the team in describing not only their passions surrounding coffee, but also their female leadership throughout InterAmerican.
Mansi Chokshi, Director of Membership at the SCAA and serving on the Board of Directors at the IWCA, reiterated her own personal passion to help empower women in coffee as well as reaffirming it as a priority of the SCAA via its support of organizations like the IWCA.
Karen introduced Martin Diedrich, Founder of the original Diedrich Coffee, and now Owner and President of Kean Coffee, as an “icon in our industry.” He was among the first to donate to the Women of Coffee Microfinance Fund beta in Guatemala, a program which success helped position the fund for a four-country launch. The evening closed with Martin reminiscing about his family’s journey through coffee farming and eventually roasting and operating cafes, a full-cycle endeavor that mirrored the women of Asomobi’s evolving enterprises. “My grandma had a Costa Rican farm, and ended up in Guatemala on a very small piece of land growing coffee beans. In the morning we picked coffee and raked it, we had to hand-crank the de-pulpers which we all made excuses to try and avoid doing.” Diedrich shared how his father taught him high standards about farming such as plant and animal diversity, and watershed protection, which were inadvertently pioneering organic growing concepts as far back at the 60’s and 70’s.
“We are an industry of very entrepreneurial people,” Martin opined. “And are deep thinkers, and are very creative – and that makes a huge difference, as an example to other industries. At origin, it’s a hand-to-mouth existence, generation after generation, in a cash economy. These farmers are indentured to a cash crop. It’s time for a paradigm of change.”