In the wake of a tumultuous summer for specialty coffee, new allegations of misogyny, bullying, and discrimination have been levied against the highest level of one of the industry’s governing bodies, the Specialty Coffee Association. In an open letter to members of the SCA and the wider international specialty coffee community, Kenyan coffee importer and sitting SCA board member Vava Angwenyi details what she describes as “betrayal, bullying, dishonesty, and a lack of transparency” at the hands of other board members.
In the letter, which can be read in full here, Angwenyi alleges she has been told to “watch [her] level of ambition given Africa does not have good numbers in membership and if [she] would be elected to the Presidents Council (PC) [sic], the organization would bleed membership, given Europe and America’s interests would not be served well.” Elsewhere in the open letter, Angwenyi alleges she was cautioned against “stating fires” by fellow board members, as well as alleging other members “abused the board confidentiality clause” for personal gains, some at her own expense. Per the statement:
To use my life and my experiences to advance personal goals at my expense is unjust, unfair and something I never expected would happen to me as a volunteer for this community.
In response to Angwenyi’s letter, an anonymous Twitter account claiming to consist of and speak for “various SCA board members, staff, and volunteers” released a letter questioning Angwenyi’s fitness for the board position. The statement, posted as a viewable file on EverNote, alleges similar instances of using her status for personal gain, and suggests insider knowledge of the inner workings of the SCA board. This anonymous letter goes on to request Angewenyi provide evidence for her accusations, as well as explain why she would want to continue to be a part of a board that acts in the way she alleges.
Sprudge reached out to the Specialty Coffee Association for comment, and to confirm if the anonymous letter was in fact speaking on behalf of SCA board members. We received the following statement written by CEO Yannis Apostolopoulos:
We have read the statement from SCA Board Director Vava Angwenyi regarding allegations of bullying and misogyny within the SCA Board. I have reached out to Vava to learn more and will be making sure a full investigation takes place with her involvement.
We have also read the anonymous response to Vava’s letter and need to clarify that this account and the statement they released does not represent the position of the SCA and was published without our knowledge.
Sprudge also reached out to Angwenyi for comment in light of the anonymous letter. Her response is reprinted here in full:
In response to the anonymous Twitter account, I would say this was very careless and unprofessional of whomever this person is, given the CEO of the SCA, Yannis [Apostolopoulos], has now come out saying these are not their views and it was posted without the association's knowledge. However, it goes to prove what my open letter touched on, in terms of bullying and intimidation. What I can allude to, given the contents of the letter, is the fact that it was definitely sent out by my bully/fellow board member, given the level of detail that is mostly confidential board room content. It is shocking that people can stoop this low for personal agendas. I reiterate to members to vote wisely and to stand firmly against this type of abusive behavior.
This story is developing…