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Groundbreakers: Three Remarkable Women Shaping the Coffee Industry

women in coffee

Coffee is often thought of as simply a hot (or cold) beverage that provides caffeine and energy. However, the industry as a whole has a deep history of global impact. The impact has been heavily influenced and shaped by remarkable women throughout its history. From streamlining sustainable practices to changing the way we enjoy our daily brew, women have a reputation of leaving a lasting mark on the world of coffee. Today, we will cover the stories of three famous women who have made a profound impact on the coffee business.

Mary Ellen Pleasant: The Mother of Civil Rights in Coffee
Born in 1884, Mary Ellen Pleasant’s most impressive achievements lay outside the world of coffee. She was known in her day as a prominent abolitionist which earned her the nickname of “Mother of Civil Rights in California”. During her day, she used her considerable wealth to help enslaved individuals escape via the Underground Railroad. She continued her work by ensuring men and women of all races were treated equally.
In addition to her heroic activism, she was the owner of a very successful coffee shop in San Francisco affectionately named “Mammy Pleasant’s Boarding House”. Her coffee shop became a popular gathering place for both the city's elite and working-class residents. It quickly became a central meeting place for important meetings such as political discussions and social activism.
Despite facing discrimination and adversity throughout her life, Mary Ellen Pleasant's resilience and determination paved the way for progress in both the coffee industry and the fight for equality. Her story serves as a reminder of the transformative power of individuals who dare to challenge the status quo and advocate for positive change.

Aida Batlle: Championing Specialty Coffee in El Salvador
The next amazing woman on our list is Aida Batle. Aida was born into an El Salvadorian family with a long history of coffee farming. It did not take long into her childhood for her to adopt the same passion for coffee that her relatives had before her. However, not satisfied with the status quo, she took her interest in coffee further by dedicating her life to exploring new and innovative ways to deliver high-quality and innovative flavor coffee options to her people.
When Aid inherited her family's farm, she was determined to raise the level of quality of the product she was delivering. As a result, she focused on two key areas: cultivating sustainable farming practices and conducting experiments within the farming and creation process. As a result of this dedication, her coffee brands gained international fame for their impeccable quality and unique flavor profiles.
However, her accomplishments did not stop there. She quickly became a vocal advocate for both sustainability and gender equity throughout the global coffee community. She has a long track record of promoting causes and programs that empower women coffee farmers and provide them with the resources they need to achieve sustained success. She also furnished a reputation as the leading voice for environmentally responsible farming practice.

Trish Rothgeb: Revolutionizing Coffee Education and Quality
Rounding out our list is Trish Rothgeb, often referred to as the "Queen of Quality Control” and a key player in shaping the specialty coffee offerings we enjoy today. Armed with a background in sensory analysis and a passion for education, Rothgeb has dedicated her career to raising the bar for coffee quality and professionalism.
In 1995, Rothberg co-founded the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI). Its mission was to improve coffee quality through a series of detailed and interactive educational training programs. The work of the CQI has resulted in industry-wide standards for little-known but still vital parts of the brewing process including coffee grading, cupping, and sensory evaluation. These standards ensure that the coffee we enjoy is always held to the highest quality and safety standards long before it reaches our cups.
In addition to her work with CQI, she is credited with coining the term “third-wave coffee”. This catchy phrase describes the movement towards ensuring consistent, high-quality artisanal coffee production. It is her advocacy and commitment to transparency and sustainability that is the reason millions of people can safely enjoy their coffee every single day.

The stories of Mary Ellen Pleasant, Aida Batlle, and Trish Rothgeb serve as powerful reminders of the transformative power of women in the coffee industry. From challenging social norms to redefining industry standards, these trailblazers have left an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and empower generations of coffee enthusiasts and professionals alike. As we celebrate their achievements, let us honor their contributions and strive to build a more inclusive and equitable coffee community for all.