March is Women’s History Month here in the United States. For the next few weeks we’re going to be celebrating some noteworthy women in the fields of coffee, spirits, and beer! For today’s post, I’ve collected some of the finest woman owned coffee roasters from across the country.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This list is in no way exhaustive or comprehensive. It is just a sliver of the great work women are doing in the specialty coffee industry. I’ve only selected companies that readers can buy from no matter their location. There are many woman owned coffee shops, carts, and trucks all over the country, but I made the decision to exclude those kinds of companies since a national audience couldn’t support them financially. However, if you reach out to me directly for recommendations based on your locale I would be happy to supply them.
Sahra Nguyen is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees. While fostering a successful career in NYC she fell in love with craft coffee, but soon learned the scene had prejudices about Vietnamese coffee. So she launched Nguyen Coffee Supply in 2018—the first Vietnamese-American & woman owned importer and roaster of Vietnamese coffees—to introduce America to high-quality Vienamese coffees, diversify the industry, and increase the visibility of Vietnamese producers.
Joey Gleason comes from a family of cooks and farmers, which helped develop her passion for food and prepare her for life as a chef in Portland, Oregon’s culinary scene. She found her true calling in coffee, and launched Marigold Coffee in 2009. She’s also the co-founder of Buckman Coffee Factory, a shared-space facility that Marigold and other local roasters call home.
Rachel Lehman is the COO, Founder and Chief Dishwasher of Nashville’s Crema Coffee Roasters. The title is apt because since founding Crema in 2007, Lehman has been involved in every aspect of the business from sourcing, buying, roasting, serving, training, and even building out their location from scratch. Along the way, she’s established Crema as one America’s premiere roasteries.
While launching Littlefoot Coffee Roasters, Rosie Quasarano also owned Cup and Spoon, a community-driven coffee shop in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. Combining her love of coffee and many years of both barista and advertising experience, Quasarano moved Littlefoot home to Grandville, Michigan and focuses on wholesale operations and consumer education.
Rachel and Jiyoon Han are the mother-daughter duo behind Bean & Bean Coffee in Queens, New York. Both are certified Arabica Q Graders – an impressive accomplishment! What’s more impressive is their commitment to bridging coffee’s gender equity gap, supporting women at every step of the supply chain. More than half of the coffee they sell is female-powered.
Cara Nader’s Strange Matter Coffee opened as Lansing, Michigan’s first multi-roaster shop back in 2014. From humble beginnings as a coffee stand in the Eastside’s Allen Street Farmers Market, Strange Matter now boasts two locations, a bakery, and, as of October 2020, their own line of in-house roasted coffee.
RĀKO Coffee Roasters was founded in April 2020 by sisters Lisa and Melissa Gerben. The Gerbens operate RĀKO with their focus on environmentally friendly roasting and sustainably sourced single origin coffees. In fact, a portion of each coffee sale supports the coffee country of origin’s International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) Chapter.
Former engineer Candy Schibli left behind a promising career in construction to launch Southeastern Roastery in Baltimore, MD. She’s as committed to promoting women’s empowerment, open dialogue, and collective creativity as she is to roasting high quality specialty coffee, and uses her business to support women at every step in the coffee supply chain.
City Girl Coffee, owned by Alyza Bohbot, is a sustainable and responsible coffee company that brings equality to women in coffee production. They source as much of their coffee as they can from small, women-owned or managed farms and co-ops, and give a portion of every sale back to the organizations that support the success of women in their country of origin.
Brooke McDonnell sold her mother’s wedding ring to buy a small Petroncini roaster and launched Equator Coffees with her partner, Helen Russell, from a Marin County garage back in 1995. That garage evolved into a high-impact coffee company with eight cafes and dozens of employees focused on quality, sustainability and social responsibility.
Needmore Coffee is a small-batch roastery in Bloomington, Indiana that has big visions for ethical sourcing through fair and direct trade, environmental impact, and community involvement. Owner Katie Mysliwiec started roasting on a 1-pound electric roaster in 2014 and has since turned Needmore into one of the community’s cultural hubs.
After the Obra family patriarch, Rusty, passed away, his widow, Lorie, vowed to keep the family farm and roastery in Ka’ū, Hawaii going. Her daughter, Joan, eventually joined her mother as co-owner and, together, they put in the work and turned Rusty’s Hawaiian into one of the world’s premiere farms and roasting operations.
In 2012 Jenny Bonchak was an award-winning 12-year veteran of the specialty coffee industry. She sold her car that year and used the $5000 from the sale to launch Slingshot Coffee, which has since become the preeminent provider of prepackaged cold brewed coffee, coffee soda, and cascara tea. In 2020, Slingshot added whole bean coffee to their lineup of offerings.
What are your favorite woman owned coffee roasters? Contact me, or enter a comment below!
Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.