Melanie Leeson

Green Coffee BuyerCanadian Roasting Society

How do you take your coffee?
Black, from pour over brewing (Chemex or V60).

How has being part of the BIPOC community strengthened or challenged your experience in Canadian coffee?

It’s been both a strength and a challenge to be a part of the BIPOC community within the Canadian coffee community. One strength has been that I have been able to easily identify and network with other BIPOC members since there are so few of us. I’ve usually experienced that we want to lift each other up. Lately I also think the wider community is trying to engage with marginalized folk in more meaningful ways. I think there are starting to be more opportunities for those of us who have marginalized identities. There’s a long way to go, though.

The challenges are many. There are so many small and subconscious ways that people are biased toward providing opportunities for the white majority. There are so many ways I’ve experienced unintentional racism and sexist marginalization from all kinds of people across the supply chain. I would say the biggest overarching challenge is people being unaware and unwilling to explore what their biases are and/or the fact that they do, in fact, hold biases.

Has the Canadian coffee landscape changed in terms of diversity & inclusion since you've started working in it?

Yes, the Canadian coffee landscape is more diverse and inclusive since I started working 12 years ago, though I wouldn’t say the changes have been large or fast acting enough.

If you could work towards ONE thing to increase diversity & inclusion in Canadian coffee, what would this be?

I don’t think it’s my job to work toward increasing diversity and inclusion. I think the work that needs to be done is on the part of people who hold positions of power: CEOs and other board members, hiring managers, etc. Please take a look around at your colleagues. If everyone looks like you, this is a problem that you need to name and then work to change.

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