Waking up to the unmistakable outline of the Fuego Volcano, we could only be in one place: Antigua, Guatemala. Abhi, Sunghee, and I (Alice) were on a two-week Guatemala and Mexico sprint to research possible options for Bean Voyage’s expansion. The main goal would be learning and meeting potential partners since although we know our model works in Costa Rica, we don’t want to presume that would be the case elsewhere.

A beautiful view from Chica Bean’s Roastery

First up, we went to chat with Chica Bean. Technically a roastery, they are situated high above Antigua, overlooking a valley of volcanoes. Talk about an inspiring workspace! They…

A few years ago, Casey Lalonde and Fi O’Brien decided to join forces and set up an all-female specialty coffee roaster, based in the UK. They are committed to only buying coffee from female producers, aiming to give them recognition for their hard work, which makes them a perfect market partner for Bean Voyage!

Read on for a Q&A with Casey, on all things coffee, gender, and shaking up the industry.

Casey (left) and Fi (right) — founders of Girls Who Grind Coffee in the UK / Credit: Girls Who Grind Coffee

What’s the origin of Girls Who Grind Coffee (GWGC)?

I can’t really think of a time that I wasn’t obsessed with coffee. I don’t know why; I just always knew that I wanted to work in coffee in…

Last week, for the first time, we hosted a two-part virtual forum, Moliendo Fino. The two sessions were open to all and addressed topics that will be the focus of our Care Training 2021 programme: ‘Women in the Community’, and ‘Adaptation to Climate Change’. Our goal for the forum was to create accessible sessions for smallholder women coffee producers who may be interested in signing up for Care Training, but are unfamiliar with our organisation, to learn more about the work we do.

We chose an approach centred on individual reflections and perspectives, rather than a lecture. This made the…

For this blog, we spoke to Adriana Vásquez, who is leading Bean Voyage’s collaborative efforts with ICAFE to establish Costa Rica’s first gender policy for the coffee sector.

A hand holding a coffee cherry / Credit: Alexa Romano

How did this project come about?

“The idea for a gender policy for Costa Rica’s coffee sector came about thanks to ICAFE (el Instituto del Café de Costa Rica). It is a very old institution in the coffee sector in Costa Rica, and now for the first time, a woman is in charge. She realized that there is a significant gender gap in the sector and that there is a lack of gender inclusivity in the existing policy…

When the COVID-19 pandemic entered our lives at the beginning of 2020, almost everyone saw their work affected in some way. But for smallholder women coffee producers, who can struggle to make ends meet even in ‘good’ years, the disruption stemming from the pandemic posed a real threat to their livelihood. One of our partner producers shared with us that 70% of her contracts had been canceled due to COVID-19 and that her household was experiencing food insecurity as a result. …

This week we spoke to Sunghee, one of Bean Voyage’s co-founders and our Care Market lead. She told us all about how Bean Voyage supports market connections and coffee sales for partner producers, as well as the latest updates from this year.

What’s the latest from Care Market?

Even with the challenges of last year, we were able to celebrate many firsts, including selling substantial quantities of green coffee and roasted coffee! …

“How will you scale?”

This is one of the scariest questions one can ask a social entrepreneur early in their journey. As a start-up, our focus is on ensuring our boat does not capsize. You want to be able to prototype your ideas and test your assumptions and the thought of scaling or the process of increasing a social enterprise’s social impact can completely disrupt the process.

Once an organization has achieved the “special sauce” — the model that works time and time again, the thought then becomes “how might we scale this to reach more people?”. …

At the end of March, we completed our 2020–21 Care Training program for 200+ smallholder women farmers from coffee-producing regions of Costa Rica. Although this was our fourth year of running Care Training, it looked a lot different compared to other years. With COVID preventing in-person programming, we needed an innovative solution that would still allow us to connect to the farmers, but not create additional technological barriers. Knowing all of our partners had access to Whatsapp, our team decided to hold the training over this platform. Whatsapp is simply a messaging platform. …

At the onset of COVID-19, we collaborated with the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives to launch the largest mapping campaign to recruit smallholder women coffee producers into the Care Trade program. With the support of various local and national partners such as CoopeVictoria, Centro Agricola Cantonal de Frailes and the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica, we were able to successfully recruit 200+ smallholder women coffee producers.

On March 9, 2021, this group graduated and became official ‘Care Traders.’ They were the largest cohort to date to finish our Care Training program, a 12-week training that covers a variety of topics…

As we wrap up the final contracts for the 2021 harvest season, we wanted to share a few key highlights from this year’s harvest. The team visited a series of coffee producers (with due protection for COVID-19) who generously shared their stories with us to inform this harvest report.

Coffee in parchment after the drying process / credit: Alexa Romano

Below are the major themes that came up during the coffee harvest 2021:

On Volumes and Yield

The farmers we work with within the region of Los Santos reported that productivity decreased by 15–50%. Our partner mills also reported receiving half of what they would generally process each year (one partner…

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