“Us women are trailblazers and push for change because we think in different ways and use different tools”- Ángela Serna

I officially began my journey with coffee five months ago when HireChance was a seed idea.  Even though I was born and raised in beautiful Colombia, I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker-even less a connoisseuse-, to the shock of everyone I tell this fun fact about myself to. But in the last few months of a steep and fascinating learning curve about the complexity of coffee and its supply chain, I’ve become fascinated and even more inspired by the incredible stories of the women and men who dedicate their time, skill, and –most importantly- love, to growing the coffee you drink every day.

By the serendipity of life, a friend of a friend introduced me to Ángela Serna, a Colombian-American whose passion, love for coffee, and her quest to empower women coffee farmers in Colombia are paving the way to revolutionize the way female farmers care, grow, and sell their coffee.

I met Angela and her wonderful mom at Catación Pública coffee roasters in northeast Bogotá on September 12th. As we tasted and sipped on a delicious decaf from the department of Tolima, we went over the challenges that many co-ops face in terms of production, quality, climate change and the volatility of the coffee prices.

As grim as this scenario is, women like Ángela are the trailblazers that are facing these challenges head on by finding innovative and sustainable ways to grow better coffee and redesigning the way coffee farms have historically operated in Colombia. 

Ángela Serna

The first fundamental part of Angela’s quest is that of reeducation: reeducating the farmers on the quality of the cherries they pick and the importance of the processes (from picking, to depulping, to dry hulling). Doing this has its challenges, but it yields many benefits in the future. The second, designing different processes that allow the client to have the exact coffee they want. That is, taking advantage of the hundreds of ways to process the cherries – especially mixing and matching fermentation processes- in order to get different flavors from a same varietal, and provide the best product possible. In Angela’s words,

“Change the mentality of coffee farms being just about coffee, but about making sure that the people that work in them are constantly learning and that there is a complete focus and care on of both the farm and the processes.”

Chapolas growing in Finca La Floresta – Quindío, Colombia. Credit: Ángela Serna

The third part is all about reinventing how the coffee farm is designed. With a BA in Architecture, Angela set out to answer the question: how to make the farm manageable for her and the women coffee growers? Especially taking into account that the coffee industry in Colombia has been predominantly men-led.  She brought her professional experience in the construction industry in the United States to the beautiful country side of the department of Quindío -where her farm is located-, and set out to transform her farm space for this purpose. One of her designs was building a 4-level African coffee bed shelves, making the storage of the parchment coffee easier. “Women are trailblazers and push for change because we think in different ways and use different tools” to solve challenges. Indeed!

The empowerment of women coffee growers is another key and important mission driver for Angela –as well as for HireChance-. She has worked tirelessly to organize an all-women coffee grower association. Her emphasis? Mutual learning, processes, and quality. Many of the women already produce great quality coffee, but her goal is to teach all the women coffee growers the best processes to help them deliver a high quality coffee that can be sold at good prices and provide a sustainable living for them. Cause let’s remember that many of the women coffee growers rely solely on their coffee crops for survival.

As a woman, entrepreneur, and fellow Colombian, I am incredibly inspired by the amazing women like Ángela who take every opportunity to innovate and create a better future for themselves and their coffee.