Women on Top
With Hidden Figures, the true story of the key role of black women at NASA due for a UK release in February, LT has turned the spotlight on the role of women on the London coffee scene...
No, America doesn’t have a woman president yet, but the influence of key women on the London coffee scene is undeniable and we would like to highlight a number of the women who’ve helped shape, or continue to help shape London coffee. These women have climbed the slippery pole of the male-dominated coffee world.
There’s a danger in this, as Anette Moldvaer herself wrote, in 2012, “The other facet … that makes me extremely uncomfortable is our tendency, through this discussion, to label those who buck the apparent male-focused trend as ‘women in coffee’. I’m sorry, did I miss a meeting where we decided that equality was no longer about stopping the definition, pigeon holing and labelling of people based on an arbitrary characteristic such as race, sexuality or gender? It’s awkward, it’s patronising and I’m fairly sure that very few of those being labelled define themselves professionally based on their gender. It isn’t helping.”
Well, we certainly hope we’re helping and somehow avoiding that. We’d clearly insist on emphasising that all those featured below are worth celebrating in their own right, as coffee professionals regardless of their gender: we just want to make sure these women get the respect they deserve.
Barista Connect in London last year was a three-day coffee symposium which aimed increase equality in the specialty coffee workforce through the empowerment of women across the gamut of career paths in the industry. Speakers included Koppi’s Anne Lunell and the successful event was organised by former Austrian Barista Champion Sonja Zweidick.
Women are dealing with stereotypes and barriers and some have risen to positons where they are likelier to be earn an equivalent wage – women café owners, roasters, Q graders, academics, company directors, trainers and head baristas but to argue that the battle is completely won would be to misrepresent the current state of play. Women who speak out about injustice are unlikely to face the kind of abuse that women in the tech industry can receive but even within the progressive speciality coffee industry people can tend to value to men’s opinions over women’s. Significant women are still being photoshopped out.
Candice Madison wrote that feminism without intersectionality (interconnections between race, class and sexuality) pushes an entirely different agenda where a dominant voice speaks for all. To address issues of gender in London coffee while ignoring race misses the point. London has a long way to go to become a more diverse scene. We’d certainly recommend the writing of Jenn Chen on this subject as she presents the way her experience in the industry have been affected by prejudice.
Fortunately, many UK coffee competitions now feature large numbers of women but when will we have a female or black or Asian UK barista champion?
Anita Le Roy founded Monmouth Coffee in 1978 and was the force behind the UK’s first independent speciality coffee roaster.
Anette Moldvaer had been a barista in Norway before working for the London School of Coffee. She met James Hoffmann and trained and roasted for him as he won the World Barista Championship in 2007, that same year she won the World Cupping Championships and the two went on to found Square Mile coffee and revolutionise London coffee. Anette also roasted coffee for the nexy two WBC winners. She’s still a leading voice on the London scene as Square Mile director, sourcing green coffee for them and helping establish them as industry leaders and writing Coffee Obsession in 2014.
Lynsey Harley worked in a range of speciality and commodity settings since 2008. Even while working for large companies, she stayed connected to the speciality scene as a judge and volunteer. Eventually she founded her own coffee roasting company Modern Standard.
Candice Madison had the highest standards as a barista and has developed her sensory skills to a world class level. Roasting for Notes and roasting coffee for Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood’s WBC performance gave her expertise a bigger stage. Candice is now based in the USA teaching Q (quality) graders as a Q Instructor and teaching SCA classes as a specialized instructor.
Estelle Bright was a talented barista in a number of London cafes before finding her niche in La Marzocco UK where she co-ordinates after sales. Estelle has been a regular competitor in barista competitions for a number of years and has finished as high as third in the UK.
Freda Yuan currently works for Caravan Roastery and is the 2016 UK Cup Tasting Champion having gained experience working in a wide range of cafes and qualified as a Q grader and as an advanced skills sensory trainer.
Yuko Inoue won the 2016 New York Coffee Masters after coming very close on previous occasions. She is the head barista and trainer at Timberyard.
Catherine Seay played a huge role in the development and success of Kaffeine as their first barista. After a time back in Australia, she returned to co-found Curators Coffee in 2012 with branches in the City, in Fitzrovia and now in Camden Lock too.
Celeste Wong spent seven years as a barista at Flat White and Milk Bar after working in the cafes in New Zealand and Australia. She now works as an actress and an entrepreneur with her own ‘The Girl in the Café’ brand. She has directed and presented a series of short coffee related videos.
Sam Sullivan has worked as a barista and head barista in a number of cafes including Bulldog Edition, Brooklyn Coffee and currently Coffee Island where she is head barista and assistant manager.
Alli Scott, originally from Tennessee, is the wholesale manager at Square Mile Coffee Roasters and in seven months on the job has made herself known across much of London promoting Square Mile’s image and reputation.
Shelagh Ryan introduced Australian style all-day dining to London with Lantana and now has three cafes open as well as arecipe book published.
Laura Tolley – co-founder and co-director of Taylor St Baristas since 2006.
As we run out of space, we feel we much mention Jessica Gordon, Zsuzsa Zichó at Modern Standard, Diana Johnston Ledezma – head of training at Taylor St Baristas, Alice Nedim – Coffee Quality Control Manager at Soho House, Nico Halliday, Heidi Beeston who developed pourover techniques at Prufrock, Bek Freeman, Kate Beard at Sprudge, Régine Léonie Guion-Firmi of Rege’s Coffee Break and Ruta Sasnauskaite at Assembly.
By the nature of lists, we’ll have missed significant people so we apologise in advance and please tweet us to let us know who you feel we missed! We look forward to the conversations!