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Female-powered roastery increases women empowerment in coffee industry

Fi O’Brien and Casey Lalonde roast their coffee in the small town of Upton Scudamore in England. They source their coffee from female producers, cooperatives and those that work to support them. Their goal is to increase female empowerment throughout the chain from farmers to coffee drinkers. 

Fi O’Brien hails from Melbourne, Australia while Casey Lalonde is from Upstate New York. They met during baby yoga classes some years back in Frome in Somerset, where they live. They quickly discovered that they both love coffee. Lalonde had studied sociology and worked as a roaster in Vermont, whereas O’Brien’s career swayed between design/advertising and owning a coffee shop. 

“When our children were all in school, we were finally ready to start our coffee business together. We started building the Girls Who Grind Coffee brand two years ago and roasting our own coffee in October 2017. It seems that the coffee scene here has accepted us really well,” Lalonde says.

Girls who grind coffee Fi O'Brien Casey Lalonde

Tell customers the story behind coffee

O’Brien is the brand’s Creative Director and brand manager and Lalonde is Head Roaster. They plan to open their own coffee shop next year and will continue to source all of their coffee from female producers and cooperatives.

“The coffee industry is male dominated, but there are a lot of women working in the chain from bean to cup. Many coffee farmers and farm workers are women and many women love to drink coffee. We’re all women trying to make a living through coffee,” O’Brien says.

They want to have a direct relationship with the producers and aim to increase the economic independence of women and to empower them.

“This goes beyond Fair Trade, because in the future we want to personally visit producers to speak directly to them, see their working conditions. We want to tell their stories to our customers, who are increasingly interested to hear where their coffee comes from and about the people involved in the chain. We don’t have the budget for travel just yet, but we keep in contact with our producers. We want to celebrate these women and tell their stories,” O’Brien says.

Girls Who Grind Coffee want to put the spotlight on the hidden effort behind your everyday cup of coffee: “It’s amazing how many people it takes to make one cup of coffee. There is so much work behind it,” Lalonde reminds us.

Girls who grind coffee outside O'Brien Lalonde

Coffee brings women together

Coffee plays such a big part in people’s lives all over the world. 

“You drink coffee when you get together with friends. It’s a connector that brings together people from different backgrounds and cultures. That’s inspiring,” O’Brien says.

They have a clear message to the women out there wanting to get involved in the coffee business.

“Go for it! Don’t be intimidated by anyone. We are all equal and women can bring just as much to the coffee scene as men. Some men who work with coffee can be very technical and competitive, but in the end it’s all about the taste of coffee. Build your own community with other women and mums who value your experiences. Customers are too often forgotten on the specialty coffee scene. We want to be light-hearted and approachable,” O’Brien says.

Girls Who Grind Coffee have not participated in roasting competitions yet, but they look forward to attending some in future.  

“Our coffee is fairly lightly roasted, but not quite as light as Scandinavian style coffee. We want to enhance the bean’s speciality, so the roasting style depends a lot on the origin of the beans,” Lalonde says. 

Girls Who Grind Coffee

•    Names: Fi O’Brien and Casey Lalonde
•    Place of birth: Fi was born in Melbourne, Australia and Casey in Upstate New York, USA
•    Town where you live: Frome, Somerset, UK
•    Favourite coffee off-duty: Fi: Honduran natural, black filter coffee Casey: Kenyan filter, black.

Girls who grind coffee pouring