Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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10 (Extra) Minutes With Helena Oliviero

Immediately we proceed our dialog with Helena Oliviero about her espresso profession and life on a Colombian finca.


Pictures courtesy of Helena Oliviero

Barista Journal: Let’s speak about dwelling on a Colombian espresso farm, Finca Palma Roja. How do you spend your days? What’s normally taking place on a busy espresso farm?

Helena Oliviero: In a conventional Colombian finca, many of the coffee-related jobs—jobs that change all year long with the seasons—are nonetheless finished by males. Fertilizing, planting, harvesting, cleansing with a machete, carrying heavy weights, processing, and drying espresso are simply a number of the onerous handbook jobs that should be carried out to make a finca productive. 

Helena and her husabnd sit in a corner atop an enormous pile of unroasted green coffee beans, both wearing brown aprons and smiling.
Helena, regardless of her expertise and {qualifications}, has skilled sexism in each Europe and Latin America, however that hasnt stopped her from being a difference-making espresso professional.

Historically, nevertheless, the function of a lady on a farm is extra associated to the care of the farm itself and the youngsters, cooking, and cleansing. Every single day, all year-round, the lady is the primary to get up to make espresso and put together the wood cooker. At 8 a.m. it’s time for the cooked breakfast (on this area it’s meat broth with potatoes and/or eggs, and a plate of fried plantains, accompanied by rice combined with a legume), adopted by a brief break with one thing to drink (normally scorching chocolate or agua panela, water with cane sugar). At 12 it’s lunchtime with soup, meat or fish, rice, potatoes, yucca, and plantain. Then, after the afternoon snack, round 5 to six p.m., it’s time for supper, once more with rice, legumes, eggs, or meat.  

What’s it wish to be a younger lady concerned in espresso manufacturing? Do you discover skepticism or distrust? Do you discover attitudes towards ladies altering?

I don’t see main adjustments internationally. There are international locations the place sexism is sneakier and others the place it’s evident. I can not say that I’ve discovered a greater state of affairs in Europe than in Latin America: Let’s not overlook that I’ve been refused some jobs in Italy as a lady.

Helena hides behind a stack of huge striped bags of unroasted coffee beans in storage. She wears a ponytail and smiles.
Colombia, Helena says, felt like house instantly.

An enormous distinction I can see is the method to kids and being pregnant. Apart from the legislation carried out to enhance maternity, I discover Latin America much less demanding to be a mother or father. In Colombia, its regular for a lady to have a baby, and for this baby to be built-in into day by day life. Individuals round you, together with males, are usually extra cautious round a baby and take small precautions in order to not endanger the child. 

Apart from this, I can inform what a espresso tastes like, and I can say find out how to change or enhance a course of. However as a lady, it’s very onerous to inform a person what to do; they gained’t pay me any consideration.  

What are your targets for the subsequent few years, in regard to Finca Palma Roja and your espresso profession?

Profitable inexperienced espresso competitions comparable to Cup of Excellence or Tierra de Diversidad, and having our espresso positioned in competitions and among the many better of Colombia. I additionally wish to strengthen the import of regional coffees and particular heaps. 

Have you ever at all times thought that sooner or later you would go away Italy to maneuver elsewhere? Have you ever at all times dreamed of it? 

I grew up as a European. If folks ask me I say I’m from Europe, so there are not any boundaries locally. After I was youthful I used to be dreaming about Japan, then I received fascinated by the Latin tradition that’s a combination of actuality and magic. I used to be certain I wouldn’t keep too lengthy in my metropolis as a result of I’ve at all times been keen to find extra. 

Helena cups unroasted beans to her nose for a sniff test. The beans are being kept in a plastic-lined barrel for storage.
Helena is a Q Grader and Cup Tasters champion. She has her sights set on extra titles within the close to future.

We’d like to know extra about Helena when she’s not concerned within the espresso world. What do you like to do? What are your hobbies?

I like listening to tales and studying from folks. I like studying, strolling, and watching the ocean. I like touring and discovering. And I wish to care for my daughter to make her develop up robust, unbiased, and empowered. 


Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the espresso machine (or visiting some hidden nook of the world), she’s busy writing for Espresso Revolt, a web site about specialty espresso that she’s creating alongside together with her boyfriend.


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