If you come to our Borough Market stall, most days the chances are that your coffee will be prepared by our stall manager Diana. Diana comes from Anserma, Caldas, a traditional coffee village in the heart of the coffee growing mountains in Colombia. She is currently one of the very few people in the UK who can talk with passion and personal knowledge about single origin Colombian coffee varietals from production, through roasting to brewing. She has come a long way to London and Borough Market, and the story of her journey shows some of the challenges faced by many Colombian women.
London is home to many Colombian immigrants, a great number of whom are fleeing the economic and personal insecurity caused by years of civil war and violence. Upon arrival, many take up any job they can find - which for women often involves low paid casual cleaning positions. Often the demands of long hours, and the need to send money home to support families in Colombia, means that women have very limited opportunities to develop their knowledge of English and gain experience in other kinds of work.
This is what happened to Diana. She had been in the UK for 15 years, but her English was very poor as her family and all her work colleagues were also South American. She was really keen to develop herself professionally but she did not know where or how to start. She had never written a CV as most of her work had been casual. By the time she found us, she was starting to lose hope that she would ever be able to do a different kind of job.
Borough Market is close to London's Colombian community hub - Elephant and Castle - and Diana somehow heard about our stall. So one day she came along and introduced herself, and asked if she could help out to get some different experience. It was clear from the beginning that Diana was passionate about coffee, and that she had experience of production processes in Colombia. We supported Diana to study English, and gave her barista training, and welcomed her to the team. She now goes to coffee houses in London to train other baristas and to talk about Colombian coffee varietals. Not bad for a girl from Anserma!
Diana is a great addition to the team, and her story shows real strength and determination. To celebrate International Women's Day we would like to raise a Flat White toast to Diana, and to Colombian women like her around the world, who work hard to overcome the obstacles life has placed in their path, who don't give up, and who make a great cup of coffee!