This month to celebrate International Women's Day (March 8th) we thought we'd hear from two of the most important women at Moyee's roastery in Kenya - Lydia Nabulumbi, Head of Quality and Esther "Tess" Atieno our head barista in Kenya.
Lydia Nabulumbi, Head of Quality.
Q: Lydia, how did you get involved in coffee?:
I'm originally from Mount Elgon in Uganda but I got into coffee in 2014 once I finished by education. I got a job in a roastery in Nairobi as a coffee hand sorter. About two years later I got promoted to production supervisor and moved into the company's newly constructed coffee laboratory. Here I was trained as a QC studying coffee and I did quality control for quite some time. Last year I took the opportunity at Moyee's new Fairchain roastery to become the head of quality control. What excites me about this role is the opportunity I will have to discover discover and design new blends and microlots from coffee cooperatives all across East Africa and to roast them here.
Q: What in your view is the future for coffee ?
I strongly believe that the future for Kenyan coffee, and indeed African coffee, is to practice organic and sustainable coffee farming and to encourage more youth to get into agriculture because the older generation is fading away. This will ensure stable and steady and even increase supply that meets the high global demand. All of this is possible if roasters, policy makers, consumers and all stakeholders collaborate with coffee farmers by sharing knowledge, offering higher prices, (which converts into more money going into the pockets of farmers) and supporting training and sensitising farmers on organic methods of farming to ensure an economic and social environment that is safe for everyone.
Q: And what are your thoughts on women in coffee?
In my opinion I believe the future for women in coffee is to be given a good education to be empowered to be given equal opportunities as men and also for women to accept and take up leadership positions at various stages. For example at farm level, at cooperative level, as women representatives, as roasters, baristas and participate in every way in the value chain, for example by selling their own coffee so that their efforts and hard work are recognised.
But the challenges I see that women face is the lack of empowerment. They might be given positions but they are still not empowered to take up those positions. And we do still have some cultures that believe that women should not be in leadership positions, cultures that do not provide opportunities for women but I can see that it is changing with increased social media and education so I think in 2-3 years to come it will be a different story. But if we all come together to support women we will get there.
Esther "Tess" Atieno Head Barista, FairChain Roastery, Kenya.
Q: Tess, can you tell us about your journey into coffee?
My initial encounter with coffee was far from pleasant, and I found it to be an unappealing beverage. However, this experience piqued my curiosity, and I embarked on an extensive research journey to understand why coffee is so beloved by millions worldwide. This exploration soon turned into a deep passion that has consumed me to this day. As a result of my dedication, I am proud to carry the Kenyan flag as the 2022 Barista Champion.
Q: What are your thoughts about women and coffee in Kenya?
Kenya has a long history of producing high-quality coffee, and women have played a vital role in the coffee industry, from planting and harvesting to processing and trading. However, like in many other countries, women in Kenya's coffee industry face significant challenges, including limited access to credit, education, and training, as well as cultural and social barriers.
Q: In your opinion, what more needs to be done for women in coffee?
It is possible that the efforts to promote gender equality and empower women in Kenya's coffee industry will continue and expand. With greater access to resources, education, and training, women coffee farmers and entrepreneurs could become more successful and influential in the sector. Additionally, increased global demand for sustainable and ethically-sourced coffee could create new opportunities for Kenyan women to access international markets and increase their incomes. Despite challenges such as limited access to credit, education, and cultural and social barriers, these positive developments could lead to more opportunities and recognition for women in Kenya's coffee industry.
Q: And now do you still think coffee is an unappealing beverage?
Not at all! Today I am a huge coffee fan and very passionate about cupping various coffee types sourced from diverse farmers and regions. I love to provide valuable insights to enhance the quality of the coffee to meet the customers' expectations and I really enjoy offering guidance and advice to farmers on how to improve their coffee production processes to meet the ever-evolving demands of the coffee industry.