That’s coffee from St. Légier not Vevey. And grown by women coffee farmers in the developing world. It’s an initiative launched by a Catalan-Swiss woman in Switzerland on International Women’s Day, 8 March, with the motto “exceptional coffee grown by exceptional women”. The coffee and their story can be found at https://www.dona.coffee. Our deputy editor Peter Hulm explains.
“70% of the work done in the coffee farms is carried out by women but only a small percentage of coffee farms are owned by women,” DONA points out on its website.
The business roasts its imported green coffee beans in small batches in Geneva, and offers them as roasted beans or Nespresso-compatible capsules. It even notes the date its capsules were filled. And it only uses arabica beans, the best quality of coffee.
“All our coffees are graded as specialty coffee […] the highest quality designation by the Specialty Coffee Association,” it notes.
Each variety has an SCA score: “Any coffees scoring 80 plus points are guaranteed to come from ethical sources, where human rights & the environment are respected & farmers & workers get a good deal.”
All DONA’s coffees score above 80.
It currently offers five varieties: the four featured here and a decaf. Each one has a story behind it of the women who grow the coffee. They are all featured on the website.
The prices include a mark-up for specialty coffee focused on quality plus transparency and sustainability of the supply chain, as distinct from commodity coffee that focuses on quantity rather than quality, says the business founder Elisa Dot Bach. So packets start at around CHF12 for 225g or 16 capsules. Shipping in Switzerland is free for orders of over CHF35. The package seals are better than most commercial products and the capsules are both biodegradable and compostable.
RD Congo by Marceline
The coffee is described as spicy and powerful. It has a taste of vanilla, cedar wood and cocoa. It is currently in process of certification as organic and meeting Fairtrade standards. Its SCA score is 86. Intensity: 4.5.
“Changemaker Marceline [Budza] founded Rebuild Women’s Hope that gathers more than 1800 entrepreneurs in RD Congo, united for the joy of coffee growing and for creating greater opportunities for women,” DONA reports.
The website adds:
From a family of coffee growers, Marceline grew up in Bukaru where she had the chance to graduate as agronomist. In 2015, she founded Rebuild Women’s Hope (RWH), an association that empowers women coffee farmers in the island of Idjwi. The mission of the cooperative is to promote women’s social and economic development whilst enabling its members to produce high value coffee for export. RWH provides training, interest-free loans, and coffee processing facilities to enable farmers to produce coffee of the highest quality. Today, RWH has expanded to over 1,800 members growing specialty coffee for international markets.
– Maternity and pediatric clinic, opened in December 2020
– Women’s centre, built with support from French government, opened in September 2020, for training in literacy, business skills and income-generating activities, including sewing and baking.
Awards: 2017 Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, 2019 French Republic Human Rights Prize, 2020 University of Oslo Human Rights Award
The coffee itself is the red bourbon variety.
Rwanda by Furaha
This is a single origin coffee for espresso and espresso-based drinks. The coffee bean is red bourbon and Nyaruzina coffee has an SCA score of 84. It’s described as bold and confident. Intensity: 4.
Furaha Umwizeye, of Rwandan and Swiss nationality, is behind three model sustainable and socially responsible coffee farms that offer full traceability down to the smallest lot. She founded Kivubelt Coffee after she finished her Master’s Degree in Economics and was motivated to return to Rwanda to contribute in a positive way to the society and the country economy.
“Nyaruzina is one of our farms directly on the shores of lake Kivu. It is situated on a scenic peninsula on the lake and only accessible by boat,” she reports. “This is a unique coffee in Rwanda because all the cherries are produced on one farm where we can control the growing conditions; inputs, pruning, mulching etc. There is also far more scope for selective picking and sorting to only process the best cherries.”
Colombia by Candelaria
This coffee is described as delicate and sweet. A single origin coffee ideal for gentle extraction methods like French press or filter. Also suitable as a mild espresso. It has organic certification and an SCA score of 83. Intensity: 3.
Candelaria’s Coffee Project unites 45 women producers in the municipalities of La Unión, Cartago, Genova and San Lorenzo, owning coffee farms with an average size of 1 to 3 hectares.
One project they have been working on is to rescue native seeds in the region that will help have better production and maintain the best quality in the plants. The coffee is grown in the region of Nariño (Colombia). Near to the Pacific Ocean with a warm humid climate, Nariño benefits from an abundance of sunlight, ideal rainfall patterns, and rich volcanic soil, allowing for the cultivation of coffee at higher altitudes (1700-2000m) than in other parts of Colombia. The bean is the Caturra variety.
DECAF Colombia by Las Rosas Cooperative
This coffee also uses the Caturra variety. The decaffeination is carried out by the Swiss Water Process rather than chemically. Its SCA score is 83-85. Intensity: 3.
Las Rosas is a group of 350 women coffee growers formed in 2010 in La Plata, “growing quality coffee and looking for economic stability, food security and using coffee production to drive change and development in their community under a new narrative of women recognition.”
Its story so far:
- A rotating credit fund with USD37,000, fully managed by women. Credit lines for productivity, food security, education and domestic calamities. The fund is fed by the project premium of their coffee.
- 550 people trained in gender equity and financial literacy; 2 women trained to continue as gender equity promoters
- 30 women were certified in leadership.
- 350 people trained in quality
- Psychological support delivered to women and families who require it
- High quality coffee produced with continuous improvement
Power of 3. House Blend
For espresso and espresso-based drinks including cappuccino and latte. Intensity: 4.
This coffee comes from women-run businesses across three continents.
Two of the stories:
Andreia Ribeiro Silva
“Our family has been in the coffee-growing industry for generations, passing from great-grandmother to great-grandson, all within coffee cultivation.” The region has around 4,500 farmers cultivating a combined area of 210,000ha. The Cerrado Mineiro presents a dry climate during the harvest period, which causes the coffee to suffer less from humidity after harvesting, allowing for a consistent drying process. The region, which covers 55 municipalities in total, achieved the Denomination of Origin in 2013 and was the first region in the country to receive this recognition. Her estate Fazenda Aragão has an SCA score of 84. It uses the Catuai variety.
Kokowagayo Cooperative, Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia
This group unites 544 women producers. Its SCA score is 83.
Ernani Muzaputri, Cooperative Member and Social Training Coordinator, Café Femenino Sumatra, explains: “In a traditional Fair Trade cooperative, the men vote for how the social premiums are to be invested. Oftentimes, the women’s priorities are different and our voices are not heard. This was the motivation to form the first all-woman cooperative.”
The average farm size is 1 ha. The women use their increased premiums to strengthen their skillsets and self-esteem through capacity-building workshops in leadership, financial management and human rights. To help diversify their income, the women have created an entrepreneurship programme that provides women with the resources and training to grow and sell non-coffee commodities when the coffee harvest is complete.
Dona’s founder, Elisa Dot Bach, explains her motivation:
“After I left Nestle 3 years ago, I realized that coffee was not only my job but also my passion and I wanted to continue learning about coffee to be able to develop my own coffee company that reflected my values. A business with a purpose at core.
“And this is what I am trying to do with DONA, a coffee brand that sources high quality specialty coffee from women-owned coffee farms around the globe. A company that recognizes, supports, and celebrates the work of women in the coffee farms and inspires others to follow. By the way, DONA means woman in Catalan my mother tongue.
“I am building a company with the help and generosity of lots of people and hopefully through this, we will be changing the life of many women and their communities whose incredible dedication results in a fantastic cup of coffee. I am really honoured to be able to offer the coffee from these exceptional women.”