San Diego's Finest Organic Coffee & Tea


The Little Italy Mercato is one of the busiest farmers’ markets in San Diego.  150 booths line Date street offering everything from farm fresh produce to artisan cheese, pastured chicken and kitchen ware . Look for Cafe Virtuoso’s yellow tent every Saturday from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. where we serve up 8 different varieties of  hot coffee as well as hot/iced tea and cold brewed coffee. Choose a bag of beans to take home and we will through in a free 12 oz. coffee.

Come by and enjoy your coffee while listening to live local music.



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As we drove up this long, windy, foggy mountain (a photographers dream) to Mountain Thunder Coffee plantation I could barely hold my excitement in. This was the first legit coffee farm I have ever been able to visit. As we arrived we were greeted by some chickens just roaming the property, the smell of roasting coffee, and an airpot full of fresh coffee to sample…Perfect way to start, if you ask me. Although we waited awhile for the tour guide to be done with the previous group it was worth the wait. I learned this 100 year old coffee farm is the largest organic coffee farm in the state and is grown at the highest elevation, 3200 feet above sea level. There was a whole new world of things to learn as far as how the beans are dried, milled, and sorted. The most interesting part of the tour was how they sort the beans. As far as I know, Mountain Thunder Plantation is one of a few farms to have an infrared bean sorter. Most farms have humans picking through and sorting the good and bad beans but NOT Mountain Thunder. They have an $180,000 computerized four-channel color sorter that is linked to Adobe Photoshop. All they do is input the desired color, shade, and hue for their premium coffee and it gets sorted into the different grades of coffee. There are five grades of authentic Kona coffee: Extra Fancy, Fancy, Number One, Prime, and Select and six criteria by which the beans are judged: size, weight, density, color, number of defects, cupping quality, and moisture. Kona coffee is one of the most heavily graded coffee so their standards are set a bit higher.

Once we were done with the tour I was quite bummed because we weren’t taken down to the acres of coffee trees. Where, for me, the magic happens. So I asked someone if I could be taken down to the field to get a few photos, since Cafe Virtuoso is now buying coffee from their farm. I soon found out I asked the daughter of the owner.  She personally walked me down and gave me even more information about the plants and the history behind the farm. She also explained they don’t take people down to the field anymore unless you pay for a private tour.

Here are a few photos I was able to capture during my visit.

The road leading up to Mountain Thunder.

Ducks greeted us as we arrived.

Mountain Thunder touring facility.

Silly chicken.

Coffee Cherries and the green coffee beans inside. So this is where coffee comes from…

Sorting room.

Coffee Sorter.

Ginger just growing out of the ground.

Coffee Wonderland.

This is me, Julie, at Mountain Thunder.

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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

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