Two coffee professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area recently teamed up to create Queer Coffee Events, an organization working to support LGBTI workers in the coffee industry.
GSN spoke with one of the organization’s founders, RJ Joseph, about their first event and what’s next for Queer Coffee.
Meet RJ Joseph
Joseph is a 28-year-old non-binary femme who has loved coffee since their first taste at age 6 and has recently come to love the industry as well.
‘I’ve loved coffee since the moment I snuck my first sip of Maxwell House with tons of milk at age 6, but I fell in love with the industry five years ago,’ they recall.
‘Coffee provided me my first full-time job in Pittsburgh during the recession when no one was willing to hire full-time workers. My then-shop Tazza D’oro was the first company to ever pay me a living wage, and the coffee training I received again and again over the course of my career filled the intellectual void left by a lifetime of being a student.’
Yet, throughout their working life, they’ve noticed that the industry they love isn’t always the nicest to the LGBTI community.
‘Over the course of my working life, I’ve seen prejudice play out in the workforce over and over, and coffee was no exception; the difference was, it felt like there was a community of people talking about it,’ they explain.
‘That doesn’t change the fact that most people who get coffee jobs, promotions, and platforms are cisgender white men, but in the same way it’s easier to address biases in the minds of family than in the minds of strangers, it’s easier to address them in a tight community where so many of us are friends than in larger, less tight-knit industries.’
Queer Coffee hosted its debut event on 2 December at Counter Culture Coffee in Emeryville, California. According to Joseph, it was a huge success.
‘The event was amazing,’ Joseph states.
‘We had about 50 people show up, many that I knew and many that I didn’t. It seemed like everyone had a lot of fun and made new connections. The panelists (Rosi Quiñones of Royal Coffee, Paba Mihindukulasuriya of Alchemy Collective, Izi Aspera of Wrecking Ball Coffee, Umeko Motoyoshi of Sudden Coffee, and Dani Goot of Bellwether Coffee) are all brilliant and had a lot of really enlightening points about education, sharing information, transparency, and building community.’
‘Talking with attendees, it seems like there’s a lot of momentum right now around creating our own institutions and making sure that we do what work we can to prioritize ourselves and each other. Neither Ellan (my partner) nor I had ever planned an event before, and I couldn’t believe how everyone came together. We were also super grateful for a delicious spread from Bartavelle Coffee and Wine Bar, Pig Out Vegan Foods, and Bump City Cookies.’
What’s next for Queer Coffee Events?
‘We’ve had people reach out about holding QC events in Portland, NYC, Grand Rapids, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Ohio, but we’re not sure where we’re going to hold the next one yet,’ Joseph says.
‘For future events, we’re planning on adding satellite screenings where panels are livestreamed so that people all over the country or world can participate no matter where events take place,’ they say.
Hopes for the future
‘I want to see people continue to build community and invest in equity,’ Joseph says.
‘Bringing people from all backgrounds into the room to solve a problem is literally the only way the coffee industry is going to have a chance of meeting the challenges the future is going to throw at us, from climate change to political strife to labor shortages. Cisgender white men are great, but no one group can adequately speak for everyone. To see situations comprehensively and troubleshoot adequately, we need all hands on deck.’
You can support Queer Coffee via their YouCaring page.