Sightseer Coffee: Imbibe 75 Place to Watch - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Imbibe 75 Place to Watch: Sightseer Coffee Roasters

Sightseer Coffee Roasters founders Kimberly Zash and Sara Gibson were initially drawn to coffee because of how it intersected with their previous careers in science and education. Prior to entering the coffee industry, Zash was a science major and teacher, while Gibson had worked for an education nonprofit. “I think coffee called to us in a similar way,” Gibson says. “It’s a fascinating combination of science and craft and sensory experience.” 

After aligning on similar values of sustainability and gender equity during their time at Austin’s Greater Goods Coffee Co., they branched out to start Sightseer, a queer-owned business whose beans are produced, sourced, and roasted by women. Although Sightseer doesn’t have a physical café, it operates out of a collective roasting space that Zash and Gibson also own called Rising Tide Roast Collaborative.

Sightseer still connects with the greater Austin community through pop-ups and markets, where the duo gets to introduce themselves. So far the response to their brand has been overwhelmingly positive. “We watch people go from being intrigued by the bags to being excited about the mission to being stoked on the flavor,” says Gibson. “It’s really rewarding to have this baby that you love so much and then have strangers get excited about it, too!”

The company’s mission focuses on empowering women in coffee. As Gibson notes, “[Women] make up approximately 70 percent of the labor force on farms. But they are severely under-represented in management and ownership. They don’t get to make the decisions. And here in the U.S., you see a ton of women working as baristas. But when you lift the curtain and look at ownership, suddenly everything looks much more male.”

Thanks to Gibson’s experience as Greater Goods head roaster and green coffee buyer, the two have been able to source sustainable and women-produced beans for their own bags. They bestow them with eclectic names like Dad Bod (“thicc, comforting, and easy to love”) and Sunshine Daydream (“sweet and ethereal, like a Grateful Dead song”).

As for sourcing, Gibson says, “We look for producers who are investing in quality and sustainability, women who are interested in making coffee delicious through skillful harvesting and processing methodologies, but who also see coffee farming as a vehicle for community betterment.” To achieve this goal, Sightseer buys green coffee at prices that are significantly higher than fair-trade rates in order to ensure a future for the producers and their farms.

Click here to read more about some of 2023’s other Imbibe 75 People and Places to Watch.

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