Relaunching Telma Machado

By Simon Johnston

If you have consumed a cup of Root and Branch coffee in the past year or so, whether from ourselves or from one of our wholesale partners, the likelihood is that you’ve been drinking Telma Machado. The natural Brazilian has secured its position as one of our most popular coffees in our past five years of existence. There have been weeks in the roastery of late that we have struggled to keep both cans and kilos of Telma on the shelves – what a problem to have! With its deep mellow notes of chocolate and nuts, it has served as the perfect gateway into specialty coffee for many of our customers.

From being a small backroom roastery, to running cafes, to our roastery space in Portview, the concepts of community and sustainability have always been two valuable factors in what makes us who we are. One cannot exist without the other. We believe this is true throughout all levels of the global coffee world. Therefore, when the opportunity came to partner with Telma Machado and Café Delas, we knew this was a relationship we could not let pass us by. One of the reasons we’re big fans of Telma, is that in spite of being recently widowed, she pressed on in managing the farm on her own, and her team of women. She says,

The interest in agriculture came from the tradition of my husband’s family. Together with him, we had a grain farm before, and we decided to change and produce coffee. We initially made the plant nursery to make our own seedlings and then we invested in coffee growing ever since. Today, we are passionate about coffee and we do a great work together.”

Alongside her coffee farming, Telma is part of a project called ‘Café Delas’, which in Portuguese, translates to ‘Her Coffee’. This project is encapsulated by one word; empowerment. Café Delas finds its roots in the notion that positive impacts within communities and families will flow from women who are provided with improved access to resources, required knowledge, and an equal voice. On the project, Telma says,

Being part of Café Delas for me is very important because the project valued my coffee and valued my life. Every meeting that happens, whenever I can go, I am there. We feel more recognised. This project is valuing the women’s work, women are conquering a lot lately, so it is another achievement for women rural producers.” 

It is important to note that women contribute significantly to the coffee world at all sectors of the global coffee chain – from farm to café. In a 2018 report by the International Coffee Organisation, they reported that between 20% and 30% of coffee farms are female-operated and up to 70% of labour in coffee production is provided by women. Yet, when compared to men, specifically in the world of coffee farming, female farmers have considerably less access to finance, knowledge, and land. There has been much research done regarding the link between improving economies and reduced gender inequalities, which is important to note as in many tropical countries, coffee is a key economic driver. Providing livelihoods for approximately 25 million rural households, it is essential for the welfare for many families and communities across the globe.

In fostering an environment of empowerment for women in all sectors of the coffee world, one must prioritise the closing of the gender gap. Such an accomplishment, however, should not be placed on the shoulders of those at the grassroots level. Towards the end of 2020, we contracted half a shipping container of green coffee from Telma, and in doing so, paid a 5% premium on top of what was needed. This is our biggest order of green coffee to date. We’re committed to supporting Telma and the project at Café Delas, in the understanding that we must actively play our part on the path towards gender equality in the global coffee community.

As those who work and profit in the world of specialty coffee, the onus is on us to bring about change. It is the obligation of all of us, from farmer, to roaster, to barista, to customer. As previously mentioned, we believe community and sustainability go hand in hand. This community we all exist in cannot continue to be sustainable if the gender gap does not cease to exist.