San Diego's Finest Organic Coffee & Tea


This Saturday, April 30, will be Artwalk in Little Italy.  A few of the farmers from the Mercato will be present but most vendors, including ourselves will not.  We will however be open at our Roasterie.  If you need coffee and haven’t had a chance to visit us where all the magic happens, then come on down!  Laurie will be there concocting one of her wonderful new drinks.

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I was talking to a customer this morning who asked me, “What does it mean to be Certified Organic?” About 30 seconds into my explanation, I noticed him looking at his watch, and I realized that this can be a pretty dense topic.  It was a nice reminder to be brief in my explanation here.  If you want to learn more, please follow the links at the end of the blog.

To be organic means grown with no chemicals.  That means pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. It also means that chemicals are not a part of the processing, and that exposure to chemicals from other sources (say a neighbors coffee farm or being shipped or stored next to chemicals) is prevented.

Unfortunately, people today know that the word “organic” sells and make organic claims that are untrue in order to sell their products. Sometimes these claims are true and sometimes they may not be true or only partially true, with non-organic products being sold as “organic.” Certification is the best way to be sure that what you are getting is actually organic.  The USDA in charge of organic certification, however the certification process is done through one of several certifying agencies.  Cafe Virtuoso is certified by Quality Assurance International.

National Organic Program

Certifying entities perform regular inspections and audits of growers, importers/exporters and manufacturers (that’s us).  The coffee and tea that we sell has to have a paper trail back to the farm it was grown on.    That funny little code on the back of your bag can be used to trace all the way back to the specific farm and crop.  If we were, for example sneaking some non-organics into our bags it would be readily apparent during this audit.

Currently the rules state that organic coffee needs to be roasted separately from non-organic coffee, with a “purge batch” to be performed before roasting organic coffees.  We take it a step further by only putting organic coffee in our roaster.   Studies have yet to prove that purging a roaster (~450F) removes chemicals found in non-organic coffees.

Next time we will look at some of the issues surrounding the relevancy of organics.

To learn more about organics read on…

Organic Food Production Act of 1990

National Organic Program (NOP) Regulations

NOP Handbook

Organic Trade Association


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Properly sealed bags extends coffee life

Every time I am asked this question I have to resist the urge to say, “you shouldn’t!”  We tend to forget that coffee is a food, full of the same sugars, oils and organic compounds found in other consumables.   The short story is that in the ideal (coffee) world, you would buy the amount of freshly roasted coffee that you are able to consume in 1-2 weeks, which is when coffee flavors are at their peak.

“But what about the packaging?” you ask.  It is true that our packaging serves as an excellent barrier to oxygen – for a while.  The reality is that  oxygen still gets through very slowly.  After a month of sitting on the shelf, the concentration of oxygen inside a bag is the same as outside.  It is not surprising then that our cupping experience shows that a sealed bag only extends the “useful life” of our coffee by about a month.   It is important to note that the coffee you buy in the grocery store is commonly a few months out of the roaster.

BUT of course we all wind up storing our coffee, either because we can’t consume it fast enough or we go out of town for a week … etc.  Here is how we like to think about it.  The enemies of coffee are:

  • Oxygen
  • Heat
  • Moisture
  • Other fragrances (e.g. spices, cheese, onions…etc)

So it follows that the ideal environment is a dark, dry place away from spices and other odors.  There is an argument to be made for vacuum containers which remove oxygen, however the vacuum does tend to make oils come to the surface of the bean where they are exposed to oxygen each time you open the container.

We often get questions about refrigerators and freezers.  If your coffee bag has been opened, the answer is easy – Don’t!  While cool is good, these places are both smelly and moist = bad. We can tell you from experience that tuna-flavored coffee “no es bueno!”    If the bag is still sealed, the answer is more hotly debated (even among our staff).  One school of thought points to the fact that some micro changes can occur with freezing.  My advice is for you to do your own experiments if long term storage is necessary, or better yet, adjust the amount of coffee you buy so you are consuming it in 2 weeks or less.  Happy sipping!




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