Huckleberry’s Shelby Williamson will be the first female roaster to represent the US on the world stage at the World Roasting Championships this year in Taipei, Taiwan. Williamson won the 2019 US Coffee Roaster Championships earlier this year and was one of only four women to compete in the male-dominated roaster competition.
“Roasting is a super physical job which is one of the reasons it’s more male-dominated. People think that a small female isn’t going to be able to handle it,” said Williamson. Some of those physical duties including lifting and moving heavy items such as inventory and equipment. There are also technical aspects like machine operation and maintenance, quality control and following safety protocols. In addition to the physical and technical tasks they also need to have an extremely acute sense of smell and taste in order to match the roast profile required. Coffee roasting is a true craft and science that requires an immense amount of passion for the work.
“You have to be 10 times better as a female in this profession to be taken seriously.”
Williamson started roasting about five years ago after deciding that she wanted to open a bookstore and coffee shop while living abroad in Moscow, Russia. Upon moving back to the US she learned how to roast at Corvus Coffee where she “fell in love with it.” She then worked at Conscious Coffee in Boulder before moving to Huckleberry about a year ago. There are very few female coffee roasters in the world but that doesn’t bother her. She grew up a tomboy and always played sports with the boys while growing up in Southern Colorado. She compared roasting to her childhood by saying, “It’s just like any other male-dominated sport. When I’m roasting it’s exactly the same.”
Williamson wants women to be represented more in the roasting industry and works with a nonprofit, She’s the Roaster, to achieve this goal. “You have to be 10 times better as a female in this profession to be taken seriously,” said Williamson. The nonprofit’s mission is to promote and encourage self-identifying women in the coffee industry to become professional coffee roasters. It offers financial assistance, a mentorship program, scholarships and serves as a safe space for women in the industry.
She will compete in the World Roasting Championships in Taipei, Taiwan from November 15- 18. Check out her roasts at Huckleberry and support her in her journey by visiting one of the two coffee shops in Denver.
Huckleberry is located at 4301 Pecos St., Denver open Monday – Friday 6:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday 7 a.m.- 5 p.m. and 1800 Wazee St., Denver. Open daily 6 a.m.- 9 p.m.