Freda Yuan, Head of Quality, Caravan Coffee Roasters
Originally from Taiwan, but moved to Melbourne after university, where I fell for the brunch and coffee culture. I came to London four years ago, and got my first barista job at Taylor St Baristas.
Now, I am a qualified Q grader, and Head of Quality at Caravan Coffee Roasters. I love trying fresh coffees from different origins before anyone else, and helping the farmers or exporters, increase their quality. London is a brilliant hub, and almost everyone in coffee knows one another. People travel here from all over the world for specialty coffee, and especially for The London Coffee Festival; it’s one big party.
Winning the UK Cup Tasting Competition twice and coming third in the World Cup Tasting Competition in 2017 is the most exciting moment in my career so far. It’s self-confirmation. I overcame my past issues with bulimia and depression, partly due to the sensory experience of coffee cupping.
I am in a unique position as an Asian woman in an industry which tends to be male-dominated and European. I have battled stereotypes my whole life. There are so many rules and preconceptions where I grew up in Taiwan; I shouldn’t be single at my age, I should have a baby by now, or married a rich doctor husband. I should have won the championship of the World Cup Tasting competition instead of placing 3rd. I shouldn’t tell anyone about my depression because it is shameful to the family. I should be skinny. I should be good at math. I should behave like a girl and respect my culture.
I strive to break through these stereotypes and be who I really am. When I realised I have to accept myself and just be, that is when I started to smash through.
Leticia Seda, Owner of Sitio Nossa Senhora Aparecida, Brazil
I was born in Santa Rita do Sapucaí, and am the granddaughter of Italian immigrants who came to work in the Brazilian coffee plantations. 13 years ago, my husband and I bought a forest reserve, where we built a chapel, a house and, eventually, a coffee plantation.
When my husband had to leave Brazil for work, I quickly had to take over the field, and, through books, articles, courses, lectures and practise, I learned about the art of coffee cultivation.
I was criticized by the way I worked, but after the harvest, I obtained the respect of the employees, neighbors and coffee-pickers. The big news was that a woman was taking care of coffee and with innovative ideas. Men made fun of me, and when I joined an association I felt the chauvinism of the countryside stronger.
I was always told, “you're a woman; you can’t do it alone.” Being a female producer isn’t easy. When your husband isn’t around, you have to earn respect through results. I refused to let it affect me, participating in several national competitions, receiving top rankings.
After moving to Santa Rita, I met who had coffee at home, too. I founded my women’s association, Amecafé Mantiqueira, to empower them, but husbands and children can also attend lectures and courses. We now have 62 female members, but it was when we got involved with the Coffee Cooperative that things really started changing.
We started appearing in the media, but it was help with transport, storage and commercialisation, as well as the courses and lectures provided to our women and their families, that helped us most. That added value to our lives that has changed our self-esteem as women. I can literally see the sparkle in their eyes and a change of perspective for the future.
Yuko Inoue, Coffee Masters NYC Champion 2016
I'm originally from Japan and moved to London in 2012, when I started working for a coffee shop called Timberyard. I took some barista courses and participated coffee events to get more knowledgeable and learned skills from other talented baristas. It was actually when I was living in Calgary, Canada, that I got started in the coffee scene. I wasn't a barista at that time but started drinking specialty coffee there. I’ve been dedicated to the coffee industry since I fell in love with one crazy Ethiopian coffee I’ll never forget.
I wouldn’t say I am a top barista yet, because I am always learning. There is always more to know, and it's never ending, which is great. I'm still on my coffee journey, and the best thing about it is meeting people from all over the world. I don't think I would have so many friends in the world if I wasn’t a barista. The downside? I've been away from my family for a long time and can't see them very often. I wish I could make coffee for my family everyday.
In New York, 2016, I became the first ever female to win Coffee Masters. It was a fun competition, and I learned so much from the other competitors. I’ve competed multiple times in Coffee Masters and I could see myself growing and improving as a barista each round. I just wanted to be better, so I continued to compete. All the champions before me were male, so that was my motivation to win...and then I did. I met many women with different roles in coffee, and they are my inspirations and motivations.
My advice to other women? Follow your passion and do what makes you happy. Try something new and share your experiences with the people around you.
Gina Wong, Influencer
I was born and bred in London, and have lived here my whole life, apart from my three years at university when I was studying at Cambridge. It was during my time there that I discovered my love for coffee, and used all my free time to find new coffee shops and brunch spots.
That’s when I travelled to New York for two weeks and started taking Instagram seriously - improving my photography, taking pictures of my travels, and posting them online. Meanwhile, I was visiting all the new coffee and brunch spots in the city, and people on Instagram enjoyed the recommendations. The New York Instagram community is huge, and my account picked up some traction whilst I was out there.
As an influencer I love getting to visit new restaurants and stay in cool hotels. The best experience I have had was working with Airbnb to try out some cool 'Airbnb Experiences,’ like calligraphy writing and flower-crown making. I got to visit Prague and stay in a beautiful apartment.
Instagram has rewarded me with not only a career, but genuine friends that I meet up with, message on a daily basis, and really connect with. It’s my form of creative expression, and has trained me to appreciate things visually in a way that I never did before. I want to create inspiring content that does well, but I don’t enjoy the competitive manner in which some people use Instagram, and the fact that you often see repetitive material on your feed.
I find it refreshing to see female baristas smashing the coffee scene, which happens more in London nowadays. The majority of Instagrammers that I follow are female, and very involved with the coffee scene - it's a supportive community, and I love that.
Priscila Nogueira, Owner of Farm Dona Alayde, Brazil
Coffee is a beautiful culture, but it has always been dominated by men. The sons of the historic Coffee Lords were the true heirs and the daughters were mere spectators.
Eventually the colonels' daughters were allowed to cast aside their lace dresses in exchange for boots. I am the granddaughter of one of these women. My grandmother took command of her father’s land young; it’s in tribute to her that we named the farm "Dona Alayde".
With my father’s death at 52, I inherited the farm at only 18 years old. It was a heritage that I had an obligation to preserve, and an enormous commitment. Gradually I to know every bit of the farm, from the different characteristics of each fields and how best to run them.
In 30 years, a lot has changed. We had to go beyond simply showing that we women were capable in the coffee market, learning to produce high quality crops in a sustainabile and environmentally and socially responsible way. All the while, we want to ensure Brazil remains a leader in world coffee trade.
We coffee women are thorough and careful with our crops, and we have proved we can produce high quality coffees with incredible flavour. Fazenda Dona Alayde is located in Carmo da Cachoeira, in the south of Minas Gerais, in a beautiful region with mountains and fertile soil. Employees and their families live on the farm and the children study at the county school.
I know that woman can be successful, and without compromise. I want to ensure that Fazenda Dona Alayde is a place that provides warmth and happiness, where the best coffee fruit are grown and the best coffee is served.
Bianca Tuckwell, Marketing and Content Creator, Ozone Coffee Roasters
I grew up in Northern NSW, Australia, on an Avocado Farm, but moved to London after graduating high school. I’m the youngest of four and, as a kid, revelled in the country life - from learning to drive a tractor to earning pocket money by ‘stickering’ fruit in boxes destined for interstate markets.
I discovered Ozone back in 2012, with a good Aussie friend. It soon became my ‘go to’ for a good coffee and an injection of Kiwi hospitality. I was noticed as one of the regulars, religiously posting on Instagram post-visits. After that, I was approached to contribute a photograph for use in one of Ozone’s very first Journals. Next thing I knew, I got the gig to photograph for the (then) website refresh. What a dream. I wanted to be a part of something special, that pushed me to my next level. Then the Marketing Manager and Content Creator role, came up, and here I am.
There are extraordinary women within Ozone: bringing badass babe power to the forefront. From our owner Lizzie Gurr, to our teams front and back of house and in the office, we have a strong female presence. The girlpower is awesome, but a serious shout out to the bro’s that bring it as well.
I love that I work around people that I admire, respect and adore being around every day. I love that my job pushes me to be comfortably uncomfortable, to trust my gut and keep it real. Building a community is central to what I do. From connecting with those who make a difference to the industry - from skilled suppliers to technicians, producers and practitioners, to making friends with artists, customers, influencers and of course, #dogsofozone. Building these friendships is crucial and I love every minute of it.