AUTHOR: MONA MAH, Extract Coffee Roasters 

Most of us love our morning cup of coffee and it’s estimated that around 90% of the world’s population enjoy caffeine and the many ways there are to consume it. Beethoven, for instance, insisted his should be made with precisely sixty beans per cup, but in the 19th century, cafes were mostly for men only.   

These days, some 2 billion mugs of coffee are drunk daily, but despite a lot changing since Beethoven’s time, there is still an alarmingly high level of gender inequality within the global coffee trade. 80% of plantations are owned by men and throughout the coffee supply chain, women are rarely decision-makers.  

Ten years ago, Bristol based Extract Coffee Roasters rescued a 1955 cast iron drum roaster, they lovingly brought her back to life through a series of restorations and named her, Betty. The machine has since become the soul of the roastery. 

To celebrate 10 years since the restoration of Betty, Extract is launching a new espresso on 8th March (International Women’s Day). The team were adamant that Betty Espresso’s entire supply chain, from crop to cup, should be run by women and wanted to use this coffee as an opportunity to start conversations around gender equity throughout the supply chain.   

Head of Coffee, Ashlee Eastwood-Quinn, said “We knew we wanted to champion female coffee producers and needed all stages of the production process to be led by women, from the growing, picking and drying, to the importing and roasting by women. We even wanted the selling and invoicing to be led by women. This is extraordinary as an all-female supply chain is something that is almost unheard of in our industry.”  

“We searched globally for female producers then tasted their coffee to find the beans with the best flavour profiles. We then had to assess the volumes they could produce, before agreeing on a fair-trade price. We chose two countries to source the beans. Rwanda, in central Africa, and Peru in South America. Rwanda had suffered terribly in the genocide in 1994, which resulted in women inheriting smallholdings after their husbands had been killed. In Peru, we happened across 2 female coffee farm owners and loved their coffee so much we bought all of it.”  

This is the entire supply chain and the women involved:  

  • “Betty” is a blend of coffees, the first from from Epiphanie Mukashyaka of Buf Cafe, in southern Rwanda  
  • The second, from Magdalena Lopez and Fredesvinda Granda of the Frontera San Ignacio Cooperative in northern Peru. 
  • Selected by Ashlee, Head of Coffee, at Extract 
  • Roasted by Mhairi, Production Roaster, at Extract 
  • Packed by Tereza & Flo – Roastery Assistants at Extract 
  • Coffee story told by Gemma & Mona – Marketing at Extract 
  • Orders taken by Jen & Lisa – Customer Coordinators at Extract 
  • Training delivered by Lauren – Account Manager at Extract 
  • Machines installed by Hana – Coffee Technician at Extract 
  • Invoices processed by Nina & Dani – Accounts at Extract

The first shipments of the new beans arrived in Bristol in February and had to be test roasted, by Extract’s two most experienced female roasters, Ashlee and Mhari, to make sure they made the grade. In Mhari’s words, “Not only did they make the grade, they were exceptional.”  

Finding Betty was not difficult, but getting her back was. “She weighed around two tonnes, so we had to split her into parts and hire a flatbed truck to get her to Bristol, where we stripped-off years of thick paint before repairing and updating her. She has been in use since then, with occasional pauses for improvements. We finally finished her latest rebuild a few weeks ago and Betty is now a fully functioning roaster again, capable of roasting 60 kg of beans at a time, in a more environmentally friendly way than she was originally designed to do.”  

Extract only buy ethically-sourced coffee beans and this is a key part of how they work. Since 80% of their roasting team are women, it was a logical step to see if they could set up a female run supply chain. David puts it succinctly when he says “It’s not just about the coffee. It’s about how we run ourselves as a company. For instance, our coffee beans arrive in hessian sacks which we donate to animal shelters who use them for bedding, and always strive to form long-term relationships with our growers. We know it’s working because we are now getting enquiries from others, asking to join our supply chain.”  

Extract hope that the launch of Betty the coffee, and celebrating ten years of using Betty the roaster, will prove that sustainability and gender equality are not just good for business, but good for society, too.