This Mother-Daughter Coffee Team is Advocating for Sloth-Safe Coffee Farming
Great coffee, diversity and gender equality, sustainability, and sloths. How are these four seemingly random topics even remotely related? Well, the mother-daughter team at New York-based Bean & Bean Coffee Roasters dabbles in each and does a pretty good job at it. We sat down with Jiyoon Han, who, with her mom, Rachel, brings this complicated Venn diagram together and does it by making really good coffee.
You’re a mother-daughter team. How did you get started roasting coffee together? Has coffee always been significant to your family, or did the passion project start with you two?
My parents have been in the food and beverage industries for basically my entire life, so coffee has always had meaning in our household. When we opened our first Bean & Bean location in 2008, I quickly took on the responsibilities of helping out around the shop after school and learning more about coffee alongside my mom. This eventually evolved into my mom and I going on trips across the world to seek out the best coffees and becoming certified Q-Graders (coffee sommeliers) together.
My mom’s and I’s mutual curiosity and passion for coffee have made our relationship as strong as it is today.
How has being a mother-daughter team influenced your approach to coffee?
It influences everything we do—my mom and I make decisions together as a team on who we want to do business with. My mom’s opinion is so important, especially when we’re tasting new varieties!
What are some of your best-selling products? What’s the best-selling drink on your menu?
Our Downtown Blend and Peru Las Damas are our top-selling beans for our e-commerce customers. And in stores, our customers love our iced honey oat latte, which is an iced latte made with honey powder and oat milk.
What are your personal favorite menu items (drinks or otherwise?)
No surprise here, but I’m also a huge fan of the iced honey oat latte. Our Gesha pour-overs are amazing too, and my go-to is a classic espresso shot made with our Downtown Blend.
With so many coffee shops in New York, how do you stand out amongst the crowd?
We’ve stood out since our opening day because of our commitment to freshly roasted beans. We roast our beans in New York, so our coffee is always as fresh as it can possibly be. That’s how and why we were able to cultivate such a loyal customer base since the beginning—customers noticed how fresh our coffee is and how amazing our stores smell that it was enough to move the needle.
In recent years, Bean & Bean launched an e-commerce shop. How has being online changed Bean & Bean’s business? What opportunities have you found in the online landscape?
Through our online business, we’ve been able to connect with and reach customers that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. We have customers everywhere from the west coast, Canada, and Europe.
Since we’re able to have a wider reach, we’ve also been able to expand our press coverage beyond New York-only or specialty coffee publications. It’s been incredible seeing Bean & Bean on sites like Buzzfeed, CNet, and Forbes.
Your website mentions your commitment to sustainability and ethical sourcing by prioritizing organic and fair-trade coffee. It also states there is more to be done than that. What other methods does Bean & Bean use to ensure ethical and sustainable practices?
Some of the other things we do to be more sustainable include minimizing carbon emissions in our roasting process by using a Loring roaster (which cuts CO2 emissions by up to 80%) and ensuring our packaging is recyclable and/or compostable.
The sloth on your logo is adorable! Can you tell us a bit about how your partnership with The Sloth Institute came about? How did you hear about The Sloth Institute and its mission to combat sloth endangerment?
Thank you! Our very first coffee-origin trip was to Costa Rica, where we saw a sloth in real life for the first time. While there, we learned that when coffee is grown sustainably, coffee trees provide shelter for sloths, so we took the initiative to reach out to the world’s leading sloth research institute and proposed a partnership.
Were you passionate about conservation in the sloth population before or after partnering with The Sloth Institute?
I was definitely passionate about it before, and partnering with The Sloth Institute has only made that passion grow even stronger.
How has the coffee industry impacted sloths and deforestation? How does Bean & Bean work to combat this?
Almost 2.5 million acres of sloth habitats in Central America have been cleared to make coffee. When sloths lose their home, they are more likely to become injured, orphaned, sick, or killed.
Bean & Bean works to combat this by donating a portion of our online coffee bean sales each month. We also symbolically adopt a sloth to help sloths grow, heal, and return to the rainforest. We advocate for them through our marketing and promotional materials to raise awareness. Working with farmers who produce their coffee ethically and sustainably also supports this commitment.
Aside from your environmental efforts, Bean & Bean is also focused on breaking the glass ceiling of the coffee industry. When did you become aware of the gender gap in your industry, and what efforts has Bean & Bean put into combating it?
Through our sourcing efforts, it became very apparent to me that coffee is a very male-dominated industry. Most coffee experts and farm owners are male—and their female counterparts are underpaid comparatively. As a women-led coffee shop, my mom and I decided that we should use our positions to uplift other women in the coffee industry.
Can you tell us about some of Bean & Bean’s meaningful relationships with female-operated partners like farms, organizations, and intermediaries? How has Bean & Bean worked to make coffee training and resources more accessible to women in the coffee business?
Absolutely. Two of our relationships I’d like to highlight here are our relationship with Cooperativa Agraria Frontera San Ignacio, COOPAFSI, which is a women-run cooperative in Peru that produces our bestselling Peru Las Damas beans. COOPAFSI has been around since 1969 and has been championing women’s advancement in the coffee industry since its founding, which is pretty incredible.
We also work with Anabella Meneses to source most of our Gesha coffees, which are rare and extraordinary. Anabella leads the Santa Felisa farm in Guatemala, and her Geshas have been awarded the Cup of Excellence, which is one of the highest honors a coffee can earn.
By choosing to work with female-operated partners, we’re giving them a bigger platform and audience, which opens up more economic and social opportunities.
What are some key factors in closing this gender gap in coffee farming, distribution, and production?
One of the biggest factors is giving women equal opportunity to own land. A huge reason the gender gap is so wide is because owning land, historically, culturally, and legally, has been much more accessible to men than to women.
When fewer women are involved in coffee, those who are involved feel less supported and have a significantly harder time advocating for fair treatment and pay. When we support women by working with them and buying the coffee that they work to produce, we are giving them both economic and social capital.
How can consumers support these efforts?
Consumers can support these efforts by choosing coffee companies that work with and are committed to working with smaller, female-led farms and producers, rather than larger corporations.
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