Noelia Villalobos

Great coffee is the coffee you like.

We have taken the occasion of International Women’s Day to talk to interesting and strong women in the coffee industry. The coffee business is still very much a male dominated industry worldwide. These coffee ladies skilfully prove to us: enjoying coffee is very much a woman’s business. And inspire us with their stories of solidarity and indulgence.

Noelia Villalobos ist the Executive Director of the Specialty Coffee Association of Costa Rica (SCACR).

Hi Noelia, where are you from and where do you currently live?
I’m from Costa Rica, and I currently live in San José, Costa Rica.

What do you do professionally in the coffee industry? Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Since 2009, I am the Executive Director of the Specialty Coffee Association of Costa Rica (SCACR) and SINTERCAFE (International Coffee Week). Both associations work to promote the production and consumption of specialty coffee inside and out of Costa Rica. SINTERCAFE is an annual event recognized worldwide that incorporates both sides of the coffee value chain. Each November Costa Rica becomes the meeting place for over 500 key decision makers from the most important coffee companies in the world. SCACR promotes specialty coffee through education and several projects, like Cup of Excellence. SCACR is the in regional partner for the Coffee Quality Insitute (CQI) and World Coffee Events (WCE). I have also been on the board of ACE, Alliance for Coffee Excellence, since 2018. I graduated in Business and have a Masters in Promotional Marketing from the Complutense University of Madrid.

What has changed in your life since you entered the coffee industry?
I love what I do. I love being able to see both sides of the industry and share a passion for something that you never stop learning about.

How is the men/women ratio in your field? Have there been changes in that ratio since you started working in the coffee industry? And if so: How would you describe those changes?
Yes, you could count the women that used to come to Sintercafe on one hand! Now we have a lot more great women in the industry.

What advice can you give to our readers as to succeeding in a male dominated work environment? Which of your qualities would you consider as your key to success?
Believe in and speak for yourself. I am a very tenacious person.

What could be, in your opinion, a first step towards further increasing sustainability in connection with coffee consumption?
More traceability and transparency in the coffee production and supply chain.

What is your favorite thing about coffee?
The people in the coffee industry and that you never stop learning.

When and where did you drink your first coffee? Was it love at first sip?
My grandfather would give us coffee with bread sticks when we were little. It was a classic dish at their house.

What defines great coffee for you?
Great coffee is the coffee you like! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

How do you prefer your coffee? Which coffee specialty is currently your favorite? Can you recommend a certain speciality that our readers should try?
I take my coffee with milk in the mornings but black after that. I have always been a Cappuccino fan! Cappuccino with a hint of marshmallow sirup is my absolute favorite.

How important is coffee for your culture and for your family?
In Costa Rica we have been producing coffee for more than 200 years. The beginning of our country’s economy depended on coffee. When I was in school, our school year was defined by the coffee harvest. So for Costa Rican culture coffee is very important. My family however has no direct connection to coffee trade other than drinking it on a daily basis.

Where is your favorite coffee place outside your home/workplace?
I have a couple of coffeeshops here in San José, Costa Rica, that I really appreciate: Franco and Cafeoteca are two of them.

Are you ready to try new sorts of coffee or do you prefer to stay true to your favorites?
I do, indeed, try a lot of different kinds of coffees with new processes but I am a full washed kind of girl for my everyday coffee.

What do you enjoy best with your coffee?
A good conversation.

Where do you see your work for the SCACR in 5 to 10 years?
I would love to still do what I do now! Hopefully with a bigger staff so we can achieve more in all the projects we want to do.

Dear Noelia, thank you for sharing valuable insights with us!

If you want to know more about Noelia Villalobos’ work, here is the Asociación Cefes Finos Costa Rica’s Website. You can also follow Sintercafe on Instagram @sintercafe.cr, Facebook @sintercafe, Twitter @sintercafe_cr or visit their Website.