Empowering Women in the Tea and Coffee Industry

The tea and coffee industries have been instrumental in the lives of women across the globe for centuries. Women workers, despite their contributions on the field, have always been relegated to the bottom strata. According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), between 20% to 30% of coffee farms are female-operated, and up to 70% of labour in coffee production is administered by women. [1]

It’s not just the coffee industry that’s struggling with gender inequality. As with most agricultural industries, the tea industry also relies heavily on women. While women make up most of the workforce they are underrepresented at high levels, with few opportunities to climb up the ladder. [2] 

But today, to coincide with Women’s Equality Day – a day that represents lending a voice to women in the US, we share two stories that have inspired us about women who have, in their own way, made great strides in their chosen industry. 

(image from unsplash)

A substantial amount of the world’s tea is being produced in countries that face a set of multifaceted challenges — this includes poverty, great wealth inequality, which aggravate issues specifically felt by women in those regions. [3] And of course, things were substantially worse back in the past.

Despite this, Dr Annique Theron emerges as a true leader. In 1968, she first learnt of the invigorating powers of Rooibos – a rare South African tea then, after she gave her baby a warm bottle of Rooibos to drink. Upon discovering a miraculous improvement in her daughter’s health, she determinedly explored the scientific healing properties of Rooibos, propelling Rooibos tea to the top of the global tea charts. Today, Rooibos remains one of the most popular tea beverages consumed globally, thanks to Dr Theron’s accidental discovery, and more importantly – her tenacity.

Our top Rooibos picks:

On the other hand, rigorous studies on the coffee sector suggest the level of education is paramount in determining the productive capacity of households. [4] However the good news is that there has been a trend towards closing the gap, despite a stark difference in the progression for certain regions. 

Here, we’d like to share more about Yanty – owner of a coffee plantation in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Fuelled solely by passion, she dove headfirst into agriculture, specifically the coffee business in 2011. With nary a help from family, her journey was wrought with challenges.

From the get-go, Yanty had a clear goal and vision for the future – with a strong desire to build and fund a coffee corporation that helps empower and support women in her community. Presently, the majority of her team is made up of widow farmers, who are sole breadwinners for their families. Yanty and her team continue to strive to increase women’s involvement in the industry, starting at the very beginning – education.

Despite what seems like a never-ending uphill battle, these are just two women who are leaders and entrepreneurs in their own right within the tea and coffee industry. Initiatives such as the Ethical Tea Partnership and IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative) also helps to raise awareness of certain gender issues in these deeply entrenched supply-chains.

Before we end, we’ve also rounded up some local, women-owned brands, so you can get your caffeine-fix while supporting these amazing entrepreneurs!

Team teapasar wishes everyone Happy Women’s Equality Day! 


[1] “Gender Equality In The Coffee Sector”. 2018. https://www.ico.org/documents/cy2017-18/icc-121-5e-gender-equality.pdf.

[2] “Women In Tea Factsheet”. 2021. https://www.ethicalteapartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Women-in-tea-factsheet-web.pdf.

[3] Ibid.

[4] World Bank. “Gender Equality and Development”. World Development Report. World Bank, 2012.

[5] “Gender Equality In The Coffee Sector”. 2018. https://www.ico.org/documents/cy2017-18/icc-121-5e-gender-equality.pdf.

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