Roaster of the Week is a series that focuses on specialty roasters and their unique stories and coffee packaging. This week, we speak with the founder of Cafecita Coffee about launching her women-owned roastery in the middle of a global pandemic.
After working as a human rights lawyer for ten years and travelling to over 70 countries, Natalie Webb decided to combine her love of coffee with her passion for social justice.
She returned to her hometown of Los Angeles, US, and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cafecita Coffee was born.
The women-owned and operated roaster sources exclusively from sustainable female-led coffee farms and co-operatives.
Additionally, a percentage of every sale goes to supporting women’s nonprofit organisations around the world.
“Before I launched Cafecita Coffee in 2020, I was working in Oaxaca, Mexico and volunteering for an organisation called En Vía,” Natalie explains. “They specialise in responsible tourism and take small groups to local villages to meet the female artisans.”
The money generated from these tours is used to provide interest-free loans and educational programmes to entrepreneurial women in six communities in the Tlacolula Valley of Mexico.
“It is incredibly successful and inspiring, as it is essentially a self-sustaining non-profit. I decided that this was the business model I wanted for Cafecita.”
What started as a dream to open a café quickly pivoted to launching an online coffee company. Ironically, this was thanks to the social restrictions that came with the pandemic.
“Launching at that time has actually been great, as we were able to dive straight into the ecommerce world without the high overheads.”
That said, travel restrictions during the pandemic made it difficult for the team to visit origin farms. This made sourcing high-quality single origin coffees a challenge.
“We had to work very closely with our importers to make sure they were aligned with our mission,” Natalie says. “They have to be extremely conscious of who they are working with.”
Natalie adds that, through the importers, she asks the producers several questions, from how the coffee is grown to the work of any social programmes. “Ultimately, the women behind the coffee are the ones Cafecita Coffee wants to support.”
A focus on female empowerment
In addition to sourcing from female-owned farms, all coffee from Cafecita is single origin and freshly roasted in small batches.
This ensures customers know exactly what is in the cup and who they are supporting, as they can learn more about the producer on the roaster’s website.
“We highlight all of our producers as part of our commitment to transparency and women empowerment,” Natalie says.
Despite women providing up to 70% of labour in coffee production, the industry is still notably male-dominated in decision-making roles.
Various factors contribute to this imbalance across the value chain, including limited access to education and resources, and the challenges female producers face when trying to own land.
Increasing the representation and opportunities for women in coffee could benefit every element of the industry.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase the production on women’s farms in developing countries by 20% to 30%.
This is why Cafecita works specifically with female producers – to ensure they receive their fair share of the profits and that gender equality is respected at every stage of production.
This empowerment can lead to better outcomes for families and communities, and the beans consistently tend to score higher.
“While there may be fewer farms to choose from, the majority of coffees grown by women are of exceptional quality and taste amazing,” Natalie explains.
She admits that it can be a challenge to source exclusively from women-owned coffee farms. However, the company is just as committed to offering high-quality coffee as it is to its social impact.
In addition to partnering with En Vía, Cafecita supports Sustainable Growers: a nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving the lives of coffee farmers, especially women, through technical training and market access.
“We want people to understand that it doesn’t have to be one or the other: high-quality coffee or a strong social impact,” Natalie says. “A company can do both. Cafecita spends a lot of time on both of these aspects as it is a core value of the company.”
Even the name ‘Cafecita’ is a sign of the company’s female empowerment. Essentially, the world ‘cafecita’ is a play on words – in Spanish, ‘cafecito’ means ‘little coffee’. By replacing the ‘o’ with an ‘a’, it becomes feminine, translating directly to ‘little women’s coffee.
“As we are 100% focused on women’s empowerment, and we only source from women-owned and operated farms, it’s a perfect fit.” Natalie explains.
Calls for Cafecita Coffee merchandise
By launching straight into the ecommerce space, Cafecita Coffee was able to offer single origin coffees wholesale and to individual customers, as well as subscriptions to their coffee club.
The Cafecita Coffee Club delivers freshly roasted specialty coffee directly to consumers every 15 or 30 days in their custom printed packaging.
Customers can choose between roast profiles and explore Cafecita’s offerings, such as the Barista’s choice. “This particular offering is my favourite because customers can try our newest coffees as soon as we get them,” Natalie says.
Cafecita Coffee has an instantly recognisable look, with custom-printed coffee bags that feature its iconic tiger face logo. Additionally, the black and white coffee bags have colour coded labels and bold illustrations.
An online platform also allowed Cafecita to dive into the corporate gifting market. Corporate gifting became a priority during the pandemic, as companies were unable to take clients, customers, and employees to lunch events.
Notably, the corporate gifting market is predicted to experience a $64 billion increase over the next three years to reach $306 billion by 2024.
As worker’s rights is one of Cafecita’s core values, Natalie feels the corporate gifting part of the company is a significant chunk of the business.
Coupled with its coffee club, Cafecita offers gift sets and boxes that consist of a variety of coffees as well as a branded reusable cup. More so, they have branded merchandise, such as sweatshirts and shopping totes.
Natalie explains the expansion into merchandise was prompted by their customers. “We had so many customers asking for it, which was amazing. Cafecita has an incredibly loyal customer base because it isn’t just about amazing single origin coffee. It has the strong social impact side, and people get excited about it. Our customers want to represent Cafecita Coffee.”
The dream of opening a café is still there, and as the business continues to thrive, it may be on the cards sooner rather than later.
“I feel like we’ve built an incredible community, despite only being online. I’m proud of what Cafecita has been able to do just as an ecommerce company. Having a dedicated space where we can host events and training sessions will be our next step.”
Photo credits: Cafecita Coffee