Girlsplaining Workshop Unites Women in Coffee in Quito, Ecuador

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Meet Camila Khalifé, the brains behind Girlsplaining, a unique coffee learning experience with an emphasis on creating space for women in the industry.

BY JORDAN BUCHANAN
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

Photos courtesy of Camila Khalifé

Men may hold most of the positions of authority and teaching roles within the specialty-coffee industry, but Camila Khalifé, the owner of Botánica Café in Quito, Ecuador, is actively working to alter those gender dynamics. According to Camila, the male majority leads to the trope of “mansplaining.”

Girlsplaining Welcomes Women in Coffee

Girlsplaining is a workshop in Quito that Camila has established to flip this dynamic. The Ecuadorian specialty expert describes her workshop as “mansplaining but positive.” The learning environment is “a space where us women speak to each other about coffee. Various professionals and experts that are women come to give classes and share their knowledge.”

Anyone can attend these events, but Camila notes that it’s mostly women who come along. She feels that many men don’t think that they can learn from women in coffee, as they feel that women don’t carry the same status and reputation as the men of the industry. With women often having to learn in male environments and/or in courses led by men, the result can be that women are marginalized in the learning space and are undermined. “We wanted to create a space where if you are a woman that you feel comfortable,” Camila says.

Participants take part in a ”Nuestros Orígenes” cupping of Ecuadorian coffees during the first edition of Girlsplaining.

Behind Girlsplaining

Camila has been a specialty-coffee pioneer in Ecuador for over a decade. She opened her café Botánica (one of the first outlets of specialty coffee in the country) in 2014. Throughout that time, she has encountered the condescension of men and at times struggled to be taken seriously as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Camila has prospered despite these challenges.

Girlsplaining has already been a success, and many people have come to learn from the women at the workshops. Camila says that it’s “great to see that we can generate spaces for women where women feel confident to ask questions, and if they do not have the knowledge, they have the confidence to come and learn more.” Camila’s goal is to break the norms of learners feeling nervous and intimidated in the classroom. She wants people to be themselves without worrying about how they will be perceived based on their gender. This goal supports the growth of the specialty industry by allowing humans to express themselves as authentic beings. Both these outcomes are major challenges, but Camila faces them head on.

Beta Campo, barista instructor, leads a latte art workshop.

Growth and Collaboration

And she hasn’t stopped in Ecuador. Camila hopes for other people across the world to position women as important sources of knowledge in the coffee industry, and to host Girlsplaining elsewhere. This year Camila will collaborate with Anggela Sara Garcia, a leading coffee specialist in Peru, for the first transnational edition of Girlsplaining in Peru. The concept is easy to move across borders. Camila says, “The format is pretty flexible; it can include workshops, panels, cupping sessions, lectures, competitions, or any women-led activity, depending on the location and what makes more sense in each place (we’ve even had flash tattoos!).”

Rafaela Iturralde, Wilma Peñaherrera, and Camila Khalifé participate in a panel about sustainable relationships with producers.

Changing the Dynamic

What Camila is doing serves as a push for positive change for all of us in the coffee sector. Whatever your gender identity, we all benefit from challenging the dominant gender dynamics that have led to limited expression, lack of emotional safety, and fierce competition in society. These tendencies have been established over a long period, and it takes a lot of work—through events like Girlsplaining—to deconstruct them.

Attendees of the second edition of Girlsplaining.

The specialty-coffee industry also encourages deep knowledge of the trade. Learning environments that are safe and egalitarian will advance our collective understanding of coffee and the people involved in getting it to the bar. Girlsplaining maintains these goals.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan Buchanan (he/they) is completing their Ph.D. in Latin American history at UC San Diego. Their research focuses on the growth of specialty-café cultures in producer nations in Latin America. Jordan grew up in Scotland and currently lives between there and Mexico when not doing doctoral work in San Diego. After purchasing their first AeroPress, Jordan has been an avid specialty-coffee enthusiast, which has added a new perspective to their lust for travel and exploration. 

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Source: Barista Magazine

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