November 01, 2018

Improving the Lives of Women, One Cup at a Time

First Published - March 8, 2017 (By Kerttu - Coffee Lover and Marketer)

We’ve launched a limited parcel microlot coffee today to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The annual day, marked on the 8th March, celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. There is still a long way to go, both in the UK and worldwide, which is why this year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange is calling for a gender inclusive world and encouraging people to make a ground-breaking action that drives the greatest change for women.

Our limited parcel microlot coffee in celebration of today, is called Carmen Sotara. It’s produced by women in Colombia who are members of AMPACS(Asociación de Mujeres Productoras Agropecuarias del Carmen Sotará or The Carmen Sotará Association of Women Agricultural Producers). We’ve created this new partnership because we want to highlight some of the issues that still exist within coffee farming and producing around the world.

The coffee has a sophisticated profile with a soft lemon toddy-like acidity, orange zest mid palate and delicate floral notes on the finish.

When coffee was first introduced to England in the late 1600s, it was largely consumed by men in coffeehouses rather than at home. Traditionally a male dominated environment, coffeehouses were where men met to discuss business and politics – topics not deemed suitable for ladies who wished to remain respectable. You can read a little more on the history in Pascale’s blog post.

Nowadays, this seems trivial but some of these issues are still a concern for many women around the world. In many countries where coffee is sourced from, women are rarely found in leadership roles and their efforts often go unseen on the coffee farms.

Union have supported gender equality at coffee farms in the following ways:

Women’s producers – Colombia
To celebrate International Women’s day, Union have sourced a coffee grown exclusively by women. The Carmen Sotara coffee has been sourced from The Carmen Sotará Association of Women Agricultural Producers – here there are 31 families of coffee growing women, all of which produce high quality, speciality coffee. This organisation started three years ago, and allows them to be entrepreneurs of their own farms, making positive changes that will improve the well-being of their families.
See the coffee here

Guatemala bee project
Pascale Schuit, Union’s Coffee Sourcing and Sustainable Relationship Manager, witnesses first-hand the rewards Union’s work with coffee farmers provides. In Guatemala, many women are single mothers because of their husbands migrating to the US, and it is generally frowned upon for women to become entrepreneurs in these communities. One of Union’s initiatives, the Guatemala bee project, encourages women to step out of their domestic environments and improve self-sufficiency through introducing bee farming on the coffee farms (bees play a significant role in coffee as cross-pollination improves the growing cycle). This work empowers women, allowing for additional income, improved autonomy and more profitable businesses.
read more about this project courtesy of Pascale

Rwanda – coffee quality training or cupping
In Rwanda, Union have invested in teaching women the art of tasting coffee or cupping. This is a fine skill which distinguishes varying qualities of coffee from one and other and gives farmers more knowledge and control over the quality they produce. In turn, this allows more negotiation power on the pricing of their coffee. 
Find out more about our work in Rwanda from my trip there last year

One woman, Eugenie Mukandanga, is now a quality control officer or cupper. Steven Macatonia and Jeremy Torz, Union’s founders, were two of her cupping trainers whilst she worked in Maraba, where she was born, as a cupper for five years. This work enabled her to pay for her public administration course at university – her job now involves visiting coffee washing stations and training workers in the skill of cupping in order to make improvements to the quality of their coffee. Eugenie enjoys her work and seeing how much progress farmers have made over the years. Back in 2002, farmers were unaware of the importance of producing quality and didn’t have the knowledge to do so. Today, farmers can produce better coffee and have higher yields, making a significant difference in the income they earn.

You can purchase Union’s limited parcel microlot Carmen Sotara coffee here, while stocks last.

For more information on International Women’s Day please visit: or search #BeBoldForChange.

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