Kimberly Easson is a highly respected coffee industry insider who has used her career in coffee to help advance, promote and advocate for social change and the common good. Her work as a co-founder of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance has influenced a generation of coffee professionals across the globe, and her work with the Gender Equity Partnership has been covered extensively here on Sprudge. Kimberly Easson embodies what the Sprudge Twenty should be and we’re excited to have her as a member of the 2021 class.
Kimberly Easson has dedicated her coffee career to finding ways to make the industry fairer for everyone. She spent 13 years working at Fairtrade, co-founded the International Women’s Coffee Alliance in 2003, and later the JavaJog for a Cause, an industry run / walk that raised over $ 100,000 for women. women in coffee producing countries. Her most recent company, the Gender Equity Partnership, has been a leader in innovation and bringing people together to act on critical issues. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Specialty Coffee Association for four years and a member of the Association’s Sustainability Council for eight years. Kimberly envisions a future of coffee where the industry works for everyone involved.
Nominated by Nicole Kaufmann
This interview has been slightly edited and condensed.
How have the challenges of the past year influenced your work?
In March 2020, the Partnership for Gender Equity (EMP) was preparing to launch our buyer-supplier alliance to advance gender equity (at the EXPO in Portland) and a major project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Very quickly, we realized that the message of gender equality should take a back seat to many of the other priorities that the industry faced in the early weeks and months of the COVID disruption, as well as ‘to the need to listen to the voices of blacks and browns.
We have chosen to focus internally to ensure that the issue of gender equity is not compromised in the days of COVID, and as a result, we have created new online programs to engage farmer organizations. , business partners and roasters in new ways.
We learned how fragile our world is and the importance of community. The need for trust, empathy and advocacy has never been clearer. And finally, this technology can connect our world in unexpected ways.
What is the most important coffee problem for you?
The well-being of coffee growing families and communities as a foundation for the resilience of the sector. In particular, women farmers – whose work is mostly hidden – are disadvantaged in almost all respects in male-dominated supply chains and with cultural barriers that hinder their advancement. Men are also affected by gender inequalities, and children even more so.
What cause or element in coffee motivates you?
The caring nature of the industry generally means that we have the opportunity to establish industry-wide collaboration to address key issues that matter to our communities and people around the world. Gender equity is the foundation of healthy families, communities and the long-term success of the coffee sector. Solving it takes broad collaboration and broad action, and I think so much is possible when people see a possibility and how they can make an impact. We are so fortunate with gender equity.
Which coffee issue do you think is critically overlooked?
Women are the hidden workforce and the engine of the coffee value chain. The main tool we have to tackle gender inequality in the industry has focused on sourcing coffee for women, which is only a small part of the solution. The wider coffee sector has shown an interest and willingness to have tools that can help them meaningfully engage in gender equity and a common language to guide conversations. and actions.
What is the quality that you like the most in coffee?
The ability of coffee to serve as a medium for a message / and a medium to connect people across continents, cultures and generations. Coffee as a catalyst for positive change on a global scale. Anyone can make a choice that makes a difference.
Did you experience a life-changing “goddess” or coffee breakthrough moment early in your career?
In 2003, I led a tour of North American coffee women in northern Nicaragua. Among the attendees was Erna Knutsen, the person who coined the term “specialty coffee” – she was 83 at the time. For most of the women on this trip, it was the first time they had visited small scale farmers on their farms and in their homes. We met a group of women farmers at SOPPEXCCA and spent a whole day sharing stories with each other and learning more about coffee. Since the visitors had asked most of the questions in the last presentation session, we turned to the local women to ask if they had any questions for us. Their response was to ask if we could kiss each other. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as we all kissed the person closest to us, then the next one, and the next, and the next…. Until everyone has kissed everyone!
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Arrive in Jinotega Nicaragua to enjoy a wonderfully made cappuccino with Fatima at SOPPEXCCA cafe and meet the farmers and women leaders.
If you could have a job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
I love my current job and look forward to it being better funded so that PGE can make a bigger difference towards achieving gender equality in the global coffee sector. There are aspects of my current job that I would prefer to delegate, so that I can continue to develop the organization and our impact.
Who are your coffee heroes?
Colleen Crosby — the co-founder of Santa Cruz Coffee Company and the “mother of soy latte” and also the co-founder of IWCA (along with me and Karen Cebreros). Colleen died in 2005 from lung cancer much too young. She was passionate, dedicated and a bit wild! She loved coffee farmers and a big part of my motivation now comes from moments we shared together advocating for fair trade and a better life for small farmers. I am so lucky to have benefited from his friendship, his mentorship and his big heart.
Fatima Ismael Espinoza (SOPPEXCCA, Nicaragua), Merling Preza (PRODECOOP, Nicaragua), Esperanza Dionisio (Peru): these are three women leaders of important agricultural cooperatives who have rebuilt or built organizations and survived in leadership roles through ‘countless challenges. They are the epitome of leadership and persistence. I am honored to count on them as friends and allies.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Colleen Crosby, she would make me smile, warm my heart and renew my faith in humanity and all things coffee.
What would you like someone to tell you when you first started out in the cafe?
That that would be as addicting as it is (and I’m not talking about the caffeine !!)
You are the first barista on Mars. What’s in your beer bar?
Natural Ethiopia, Guatemala, Nicaragua.