Coffee is a product that often comes to market through family ties. Knowledge, skills, and resources are passed down through generations. As we celebrate Mother’s Day in the U.S., CQI would like to share the stories of two women, Kelly Villazón and Jiyoon Han, and how their mothers shaped their careers in coffee.
Kelly Villazón, a coffee producer in Colombia, grew up with with a mother who demonstrated leadership and perseverance.
“Hello, I am Kelly Villazón, my entire life was guided by a woman: I’m telling you about my mother Elizabeth, or as everyone in our community knows her by her nickname - Icha. Icha was orphaned at an early age. When she was 7 years old, she had to work washing clothes and cleaning in other families' houses in order to earn some money, she could not study beyond the third grade of primary school.
She met my father in her twenties, but the war in Colombia took the life of her beloved one when she was thirty years old. But in her pain she continued fighting for her 3 children and running a coffee farm with fifty coffee pickers - all men, except one woman.
Being the daughter of a woman coffee farmer was knowing that the love of a coffee mother was shared with the love for her coffee plantations, with the time dedicated to caring for each batch of coffee and with the time she devoted to face every difficulty that arose.
Since I was little, she taught me to be independent, face my fears and to be a human being rather than a businesswoman. She taught me to have dreams and thus work and prepare to achieve them.
I confess you that it was not easy for me as a daughter since my mother had to work on the farm and she did not leave it until she had everything well prepared for the next harvest and I had to go to school far from her. I could only see her once a month, that taught me that thanks to the effort and sacrifice that she made as a mother, I was able to study and go to university. Thanks to her example of struggle, I studied four languages and took over the management of our coffee farm, exporting our coffee directly to Europe, creating an export company and a roasted coffee processor.
Today my mother is our greatest idol: Without her? Nothing. With her? Everything."
Originally from South Korea, Jiyoon Han and her mother built their lives in the United States with their coffee business.
“[Deciding to work with my mother Rachel], I think is both organic and intentional, which is what is beautiful about our mother-daughter partnership. Coffee has become my life, what I live. A little background on my family… We are immigrants from South Korea. My family moved to the US (Queens New York) when I was 10 years old. Coffee is how my family built our new life in this country, and I grew up surrounded by it. When I was young, coffee was something that was supporting my family’s livelihood, and over time, it’s fortunately become more than that. Becoming Q certified with my mother a few years ago was a huge milestone for the both of us. The Q system gave us confidence and conviction to keep doing what we had been doing – using coffee as a vehicle to do good in the world.
Growing up I’ve spoken almost exclusively Korean with her, because she is an immigrant and English is still very much a second language for her. Besides Korean, though, I say, Mom and I speak “coffee” to each other. Coffee is another language I am able to speak with her. The best thing about working together might also be the worst thing about working together… When I cup, taste, evaluate… The experience often feels whole and complete only after Mom has cupped and tasted that same coffee too.
There are so many stories and treasures that get preserved and passed on through working across generations. It’s like the fusing of the past, present, and future. I am so happy to meet multi-generational coffee producers, who are actively passing down the family business to their next generation. It’s so special when Mom and I meet women coffee producers who work with their daughters and sons.”
These are just two of many stories of families and coffee. CQI would like to wish mothers all over the world a happy Mother’s Day.