On Saturday, March 24th the new Fellow showroom on Valencia in San Francisco played host to a Women In Coffee panel, featuring prominent female coffee professionals from around the Bay Area. The discussion was led by Alicia Adams (Director of Coffee of Red Bay Coffee Roasters) and featured business owners Eileen Rinaldi (founder and CEO of Ritual Coffee Roasters), Helen Russell (co-founder and CEO of Equator Coffees & Teas), Trish Rothgeb (co-founder, co-CEO, and Director of Coffee at Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters), and Rachel Konte (Chief of Design at Red Bay Coffee Roasters).

“Here at Fellow we pick themes for the store every month,” explained manager Jessica Caisse. “In honor of International Women’s Day we decided March would be ‘Boss Ladies Month’ during which we would highlight and celebrate women in the coffee industry. We featured women-owned and operated roasters, promoted women producers, and planned a ‘Women in Coffee’ mixer like we’ve enjoyed at other businesses in the past, where ladies in the industry have a fun night to connect over food and drinks.”

Caisse teamed up with Akaash Saini of Equator Coffees and Teas who’d been developing this program and needed a venue. “It couldn’t have been more perfect timing,” Caisse told Sprudge.

Before the panel kicked off, around forty-five guests mingled in the expansive showroom, with food provided by Dripline of Oakland, CA. “The owner and head chef, Nora Dunning, is getting a lot of local exposure,” says Caisse, “She was one of the head pastry people at Farley’s and Blue Bottle. Dripline is now becoming one of the hot spots in Oakland.” Dripline’s food draws from South East Asian flavors and contemporary California cuisine—think a cardamom-spiced muffin dusted with Equator Coffees’ Tigerwalk espresso blend.

Drinks were provided by women-owned Inconnu Wine and beer by women-owned Good Food Award winning brewery Sufferfest.

Alicia Adams moderated the panel and touched on issues like diversity, sexual harassment, challenges of being a woman in coffee, and dismantling outdated systems. “I was honored and inspired to be moderating a panel of women with so much experience in the coffee industry,” Adams tells Sprudge. “A lot of them have paved the way for women in the coffee industry, and to hear their thoughts and advice on the more serious topics like sexual harassment and gender inequity while still keeping the conversation positive and uplifting is exactly what we need more of.”

Alicia Adams, Trish Rothgeb, and Helen Russell.

“[Adams] asked great questions that pushed us toward some illuminating realizations. I learned so much from the other panelists, as well as Alicia,” Trish Rothgeb told us.

“It’s always an honor to represent Women of Color in the Coffee industry,” says Rachel Konte. “We are unicorns, but that is not holding us back. We need to be seen so others can follow.”

“It was wonderful to look out at the audience and see more than one kind of person represented,” Rothgeb continued. “A panel made up of women talking about the coffee lives of women can draw a diverse crowd! This is amazing to see.”

The panel lasted a little over an hour and included topics that panelists had different takes on. Some championed transparency in wages while others were more cautious. “Compensation is a complex topic and it was interesting to hear how we all manage transparency at different stages of growth,” said Helen Russell.

“Rachel, Helen, Trish, Eileen, and Alicia were a wonderful team to lead a discussion like this, and the response I’ve had from guests has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Caisse. “Communities coming together in this way on a regular basis is so important to the health and vibrance of our industry, and I’m honored Fellow could be a part of it.”

Watch the complete video below:

Sprudge is proudly partnered with this Women In Coffee event. Special thanks to Fellow and Equator Coffees, and to all the panelists, our host Alicia Adams, and attendees.

Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.

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