Beyond sustainable coffee bags: Promoting career progression for women in coffee

Esther Gibbs
December 5, 2023
sustainable coffee bags, custom coffee bags, custom printed coffee bags, Clifton Coffee Roasters, women in coffee,

Across the globe, women have a complex position within the coffee industry. Research shows that over 70% of the labour in coffee production is done by women. Furthermore, less than 30% of these women find themselves in operational or managerial positions. Clearly, progression within the industry needs to stem further than implementing sustainable coffee bags. 

The disparity in the representation of women carries on through the supply chain. Notably, Agnieszka Rojewska, the first female World Barista Champion, was only crowned in 2018. While the coffee competition scene is becoming more diverse, production roasting has typically been a role filled by men. 

That said, there is a shift taking place, with more companies hiring women to roast. Beyond this, these women are also being promoted to higher positions. 

To learn more about the career progression for women in coffee, I spoke with Lauren Pimble, who recently joined Clifton Coffee Roasters in Bristol, UK, as a production roaster. 

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Entering the coffee industry: Where can women start?

Lauren explains that she first stumbled into coffee after finishing university. She began working at a local Starbucks and admits she hadn’t been a huge fan of coffee before then. “Plenty of overnight shifts on the drive-thru soon changed that,” she laughs. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed being a barista and having a practical skill I could improve,” she adds. “I then moved to work for a specialty roaster as a trainee barista and progressed to become a manager. From there, I managed a coffee shop and bakery, which was a wholesale customer of Clifton Coffee Roasters. 

“I was able to complete the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) intermediate Barista course at the roastery and it blew my mind. I had always been visiting lots of cafes, researching, and reading, and this led me further down the rabbit hole.”

For those with customer-facing hospitality experience, coffee roasting is an attractive step in career progression. And, it was no different for Lauren. “The technical and scientific aspects of roasting and coffee really interest me. It’s practical, hands-on, and quite physical work.”

Lauren left school at 16 years old to study manufacturing engineering. “I think by becoming a coffee roaster, I’ve fallen into something that suits me perfectly,” she says. “After being a barista for almost 6 years, it felt like the most natural next step that suited my skill set.”

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Exploring the logistics of daily coffee roasting

The art of roasting coffee is often portrayed in a glamorous light within the industry. However, the job itself can be quite repetitive, physically demanding, and requires incredible attention to detail. 

“My first week was intense but exciting,” Lauren explains. “There’s so much information to take in, and it can be overwhelming. I like to think I picked it up pretty quickly. I had done a lot of research and reading beforehand, so that helped me to better understand the theory behind what we were trying to achieve.” 

Lauren’s week now is very structured, as the volumes of roasted coffee produced at Clifton Coffee are so large. The team spends the majority of the week roasting and is sure to execute quality control cuppings every day. This is to score, evaluate, and discuss how the team can improve. 

She explains that the brand has four Diedrich coffee roasters, which are rotated. “So, one day I could be roasting 70kg batches of our house coffees. The next day, I might be roasting smaller batches of our single-origin retail lines,” she says. “Each day is the same, but different. The structure is always the same, but the machine and coffees vary, so it certainly keeps you on your toes.”

Starting any new position without previous experience can be incredibly daunting. A huge part of having a progressive career and enjoying the work correlates with being surrounded by a great team of people. Additionally, it should be a team that encourages each other to grow, and share knowledge and insight.

“The team at Clifton Coffee Roasters has been incredibly welcoming,” Lauren says. “Everyone is super passionate and I get to learn something new every day.” As well as being known as an SCA campus training school for its wholesale customers, Clifton Coffee Roasters prioritises supporting and developing its staff. 

For example, with help from the brand, Lauren has gained experience and training in coffee roasting, sensory analysis, and green grading. All of this will help to grow her confidence and expertise in her role, which benefits the entire business overall. 

Beyond this, her one-to-one sessions with the brand’s Head Roaster, Tim Nurse, and Paul Griffiths, Head of Coffee, have thrown her deeper into the rabbit hole of coffee science and encouraged her to continue to be curious. 

“I try to absorb as much information as possible and ask lots of questions. I’m yet to ask Tim a question he doesn’t know the answer to,” Lauren adds. She explains that her focus moving forward is to improve her sensory skills and gain a better understanding of how the different factors during the roasting affect the final cup. 

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Opening doors for women in specialty coffee

Lauren looks forward to sharing her knowledge and experience with other women within the industry to help them access more roles in the scientific and technology-based aspects of coffee. 

Increasing the representation and opportunities for women in coffee could benefit every element of the industry. If women were to have access to the same land, financing, and technology as men, they could increase their agricultural output by 20% to 30%. The empowerment of women in the coffee industry may help improve the quality of life for coffee-producing communities, as well as inspire future generations of roasters.

It is up to roasters and café owners to educate the consumer on where their coffee comes from. This information may resonate deeply with consumers, especially women. Not only could this encourage consumers to use their power to make a change, but it may help boost customer loyalty and retention.

Lauren has also worked on Clifton Coffee Roasters’ newly released Christmas Coffee: a natural red bourbon from Cafe Tuxpal, El Salvador. “When we cupped and selected this coffee, it gave me proper pecan pie vibes. Super sweet sugar browning flavours, nutty, a little spice and a bit boozy too,” Lauren explains. 

Notably, for its Christmas coffee, the brand donates 50p per kilo to Farm Radio International. This organisation enables farming communities to access and share the knowledge they need to succeed through radio programmes, which are the most accessible media with the widest reach. 

Available as an espresso or filter roast, Clifton’s Christmas coffee is packaged in the brand’s grey 250g bespoke and recyclable bags from MTPak Coffee. Each custom coffee bag is adorned with a decorative kraft Christmas snowflake label placed over the top right of the bag. 

At MTPak Coffee, we can help you design the perfect seasonal coffee bags, from concept to delivery. Our team of expert designers will guide you through the process, ensuring your coffee bags or custom coffee boxes stand out on the shelf, attract attention, and adhere to your unique style.

Image courtesy of Clifton Coffee Roasters

For more information on custom coffee bags for your festive products, contact our team.

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