Not being on the sales side of things I seldom have the opportunity to try and experience all the amazing things our clients have to offer. My family and I have been excited to try Gro Cafe since it opened. The concept of this cafe is simple but so inspiring. From being the first cafe to compost in the park to fresh, healthy, and organic foods I knew this was right up our alley. I must say I was blown away. Maria, the owner of Gro Cafe, has put her heart and soul into creating every aspect of this amazing little place.
My favorite photo from the whole day.
I love the support from our youth.
The freshest, yummiest fruit I have ever had at a cafe. Cut fresh daily. For those of you with children that watch the wigglies you may recognize the saying on the photo to the right. Fruit salad…yummy yummy!!
A case full of goodies…which includes vegan muffins.
Supporting Cafe Virtuoso on the menu.
The first compost to hit Balboa Park. A huge step in the right direction for the park.
Original hand made cups from a local artist.
The very friendly and funny staff of Gro Cafe.
Gro Cafe shares a beautiful building in Balboa Park with the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Model Railroad Museum and The San Diego History Center. Look for the green “A” frame sign with arrows pointing you in the right direction. If you need further assistance check out locations page for directions.
Photos taken by: Julie Rings Photography
Although all types of tea (Camellia sinensis) come from the same plant; they undergo different processes after they are picked to yield the different finished products.
White Tea: The most precious and rare type of tea; white tea can only be picked during early spring, while the buds are covered with whitish hairs. The leaves and buds are slowly dried, being only slightly oxidized to yield a naturally sweet and very mild flavor.
Green Tea: After being harvested, the tea leaves are put in the sunlight for a short period of time (usually 1-2 hours) to initiate oxidation. To halt the oxidative process (incorrectly referred to as fermentation by some) and to preserve the the freshness, the leaves are heated, before being rolled or flattened to help regulate the release of natural oils during steeping. Heating is usually done through either pan-firing or steaming the leaves before drying.
Oolong Tea: Think of bruising an apple or crushing mint leaves; after being picked, the leaves are repeatedly exposed to alternating sunlight and shaking in baskets to lightly bruise the edges. Some oolongs have more, some have less oxidation which is determined by how many cycles they undergo. At the desired point of oxidation, the leaves are pan-fired at extremely high temperatures to halt the oxidative process. The result is a dryer leaf than other types of tea, allowing for a longer shelf life and a malty and/or nutty flavor profile.
Black Tea: Freshly-picked leaves are placed in direct sunlight to wilt. This allows the leaves to be rolled without breaking or tearing the leaves. This releases chemicals that when exposed to oxygen and rested in humid rooms acts as a catalyst to oxidize the leaves. Like green and oolong, the black tea is heated to halt the oxidation, usually pan-fired or by baking. The result is a robust and full-bodied tea.
Tea was, and continues to be, consumed for medicinal and/or health benefits; this is largely because of various antioxidants that are naturally occurring in tea. However, there is an inverse relationship between the amount of antioxidants and caffeine. White and green tea have the highest level of antioxidants and the lowest amount of caffeine; while black teas have fewer antioxidants and more caffeine.
We at Cafe Virtuoso often get asked about our social responsibility. We support several programs which document traceability of socially responsible business practices (RainForest Alliance, Women’s Alliance, SMBC…etc). Fair Trade comprises about 80% of our purchased coffees and we are always looking to add more including teas.
But what is Fair Trade? As defined by Fair Trade USA, “Enabling sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth.” Fair Trade USA is able to keep everything certified by transparency. They record all the steps needed to ensure all those involved in getting your coffee, tea, chocolate, fruits and various other products, including apparel to you while providing everyone involved a fair living wage. The Fair Trade model seeks to benefit the communities where products come from by eliminating child laborers, building schools, family clinics and encouraging the cooperatives to set up democratic structures. They are also encouraged to grow alternative crops or start secondary businesses to further be self sufficient. Coffee in particular offers a unique opportunity for change, given that it is the second largest (legally) traded commodity in the world – second only to oil.
Who would have thought that all this good could come from a cup of coffee or tea? We at Cafe Virtuoso do and encourage you to become a conscious consumer too! Remember that all this is possible if you look for your Fair Trade certified products. For more information on Fair Trade, please go to fairtradeusa.org and look for a provider near you.
Thanks from all of us at Cafe Virtuoso Steve, Laurie, Mike, Marta, Chad and Rigo.