10 Minutes With Beth Ann Casperson

Beth Ann, friend Alejandrina, and other friends in Peru

Beth Ann Caspersen
Quality Control Manager
Equal Exchange
West Bridgewater, Massachusetts

What other coffee jobs have you had?

Equal Exchange; 15 years

Organic Products Trading (now part of Coffee Holding), Vancouver, Washington;  1 year

Beth Ann travels the world for her job at Equal Exchange, but when she's at home, she likes to live a simple life with her family.

Beth Ann travels the world for her job at Equal Exchange, but when she’s at home, she likes to live a simple life with her family.

Beth Ann cups at the Taste of Harvest Competition in Ethiopia.

Beth Ann cups at the Taste of Harvest Competition in Ethiopia.

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

Oh, so many things! I do a lot of training at source with our producer partners and here at our roastery on everything from harvesting, processing, roasting, cupping, and green coffee preparation. Each teaching experience is a learning experience—there are so many aspects of coffee that fascinate me and it never ceases to amaze me how much there is learn. But I think that one of the reasons I enjoy my work sooooo much is because I love coffee people and especially love the people I work with. We are always laughing, making up crazy songs, absurd jokes, or ridiculous dances—the lab is pure comedy. I work with such an interesting and dynamic group of people. They are so talented and I learn a lot from everyone around me. In my job, I have a lot of independence and room for creativity—something I am super conscious of and very thankful for. Work has to be fun. A friend of mine once told me that I could have fun by myself in a cardboard box—I am not sure about that one, but I think that my mom’s advice that the company you keep can reflect who you are, is true in my case. Life is really short—I always say that if you are not having fun in your job, you should find a new job.

Beth Ann has gotten into running, specifically to raise money and awareness for causes she's passionate about, like the Java Jog for a Cause at the SCAA show in Seattle in April.

Beth Ann has gotten into running, specifically to raise money and awareness for causes she’s passionate about, like the Java Jog for a Cause at the SCAA show in Seattle in April.

Beth Ann with Maco and Hugo at Las Flores in Guatemala.

Beth Ann with Maco and Hugo at Las Flores in Guatemala.

 

Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

Wow, that seems so far away!  I absolutely love my job at Equal Exchange (EE)—the people, our work—I have really grown up within EE and I have watched so many people all along the supply chain grow and develop, too. I am what we call a lifer—I really can’t imagine being anywhere else—which would mean that I would be at EE for 25 years! In an industry where folks tend to move every 3 to 7 years to a new gig, I have no desire to move on. I feel like I am really just getting started.

Beth Ann has conducted groundbreaking work in the DR Congo, such as helping the Panzi Hospital, where this photo was taken.

Beth Ann has conducted groundbreaking work in the DR Congo, such as helping the Panzi Hospital, where this photo was taken.

Beth Ann moves wet coffee at Las Colinas in El Salvador.

Beth Ann moves wet coffee at Las Colinas in El Salvador.

 

Who and what inspires you?

There have been so many positive influences in my life—my husband is a great business person and has been a strong mentor in all aspects of my life.  I have also been so heavily influenced and inspired by strong women, from my mom and sister, to the women I have worked with throughout the coffee chain. They play so many roles—they are the center of the home, farmers, cuppers, mill managers, export managers, and more. I was recently in Uganda, surrounded by strong women visiting a energy efficient stove project we funded a few years back, and was once again reminded of the struggles and successes that many of these women have to endure on a daily basis. Each visit and interaction provides me with a glimpse into their world, a sort of sisterly love that you can’t really explain. It drives me to think creatively and holistically about what and how I am doing things, where I can have the greatest impact, and what my purpose is on this planet.

This is Beth Ann's favorite tree, at Mt. Elgon in Uganda.

This is Beth Ann’s favorite tree, at Mt. Elgon in Uganda.

Beth Ann, friend Alejandrina, and other friends in Peru

Beth Ann, friend Alejandrina, and other friends in Peru

 

What are you drinking right now?

Our Seasonal SOPACDI. It’s a central washed bourbon from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Beth Ann has a special place in her heart for women in coffee.

Beth Ann has a special place in her heart for women in coffee.

Gumutindo.

Gumutindo.

 

Crazy/memorable coffee experience you’d like to share?

Taking my six-month-old son to Colombia for an EE quality competition.

In 2007, EE started sponsoring a coffee quality seminar in north central Colombia. There were more than 200 farmers in the organic project and we had been working really hard to demonstrate and promote coffee quality through these competitions. We hosted the second competition in November of 2008, and at the time, we had a six-month-old baby boy. I was torn: do I miss the competition, should I leave my son home with my mom-in-law for a week? Nope, we decided to bring him with us. It was a family affair: me, Todd, my mother-in-law, Millie, and our son, Magnus. We didn’t want to stay in a hotel, so our friends Hernan and Estella offered to have us all stay in their home on the coffee farm for the week. It was such an amazing and emotional experience—filled with excitement for the competition and nerves around the baby. They were such gracious hosts and everyone was so excited and supportive. Then, about halfway through the week, my son got a fever and I was a nervous wreck! We went to the doctor in town and he was fine, but mommy was a sleep deprived mess with lots of coffee to cup. Luckily, I was working with two cupels—Angelica and Yaneth—who are not only well organized, but really great cuppers.   We roasted and cupped more than 200 samples during the week—late nights and early mornings—combined with mommy duties, warming bottles, changing diapers. It was like my two worlds of coffee and mommy life had collided and ended up in the Truijllo farm. It was such a memorable experience, and our son travels with us when he can—we brought him to Lima for 5 weeks in 2011, and he always goes to the SCAA. You will definitely see him in Seattle in April.

Beth Ann with her son, Magnus.

Beth Ann with her son, Magnus.

What are you doing when you’re not doing coffee?

My husband and I work together (he is the Director of Purchasing for EE) and recently we moved to a small coastal town in southern Rhode Island. We both travel a lot for work, so when I get home from a trip I just want to be home! I spend a lot of my free time just living in the moment and staring at the ocean. Water is like magic to me, the light, the colors the seasons—right now there is a lot of snow on the ground [but it will be] sweltering hot in just a few short months—I love the changes. Any reason to get closer to the water is a good reason. I have a ridiculous rock and shell collection and our location makes getting to the woods is equally easy. I am an avid mushroom hunter, so the summer/fall is prime time for that. Truth be told, most of our getaways are in Vermont where we have a small cabin that we built about 3 years ago. More recently I started running races like Run for Congo or the upcoming Java Jog for a Cause race to be held in Seattle during the SCAA. It’s not all health and fitness though—I love, love, love shellfish- especially lobster, I think I could easily eat 2 to 3 in one sitting. Add some littleneck clams and a nice bottle of Sauvingion Blanc, and I am happy as can be.

Incahuasi, Peru.

Incahuasi, Peru.

The energy efficient stove project in Uganda.

The energy efficient stove project in Uganda.

 

 

 

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.