A stickler for perfection and the absolute opposite of a morning person by nature, Laurie seems to always have been destined to be part of the world of organic specialty coffee and tea. Initially beginning her career in the manufacturing business, after several years she realized her true passion was coffee following a big decision to move from where she grew up in Oregon to begin with a fresh start and new adventure in San Diego. This led to a major career switch beginning with roasting coffee in her garage, to what was eventually to become Café Virtuoso in 2008, and now what it has evolved into today.
When Laurie first set out to learn about the speciality coffee industry, she discovered the real importance of each and every detail and why 100 percent organic was the only way to go; not just to achieve a quality product worthy of her purist nature, but also for all the people involved from harvest to cup. Coffee is the number one agricultural beverage produced in the world and the chemicals used in conventional non-organic farming practices in many countries are extremely harmful to the farmers and to the environment.
By being socially and ethically responsible for her product and acutely involved in every aspect of what it means to be truly sustainable, Café Virtuoso’s coffee and tea is something that Laurie is positively proud to stand behind.
Rigoberto, known as “Rigo” by everyone who meets him has been in the coffee industry for over 20 years working in all facets of the business from sales, service and delivery to coffee education and training. The only other thing that he loves to spend time with as much—other than his family of course—is his fishing pole. When not working, you’ll find him most days out on a boat reeling in his dinner.
Rigo recognizes that coffee chose him, as his love affair began from a very young age. Looking back, he can’t remember ever not sitting at the table with his parents and other family members sipping a cup of coffee—causing it to become a predominant association with everyday normal life essentially from day one.
At Café Virtuoso, where he has been an integral part of the team since 2010, it’s Rigo’s ambition and drive everyday to help his customers learn and understand all of what it takes to achieve the gold cup standard awarded by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). This is the highest of all standards in the world of speciality coffee and the only way to truly measure the perfect cup.
Having been tea and espresso certified himself by SCA and also a founding member of Fair Trade San Diego, an organization to promote awareness and practices of fair trade in San Diego County, it’s fair to say that coffee is now and will forever be embedded in his DNA.
Not that long ago, if anyone would’ve told Savannah that she was going to devote her entire professional career to coffee, she likely would’ve laughed quite uncontrollably in downright disbelief. However, fast forward to today and coffee has truly and unexpectedly become her life. Looking back to her childhood, it’s now more clear as to why she chose a career in this industry. An interest in coffee began at the age of 11 after discovering espresso and sweet coffee drinks at a drive-thru coffee stand in Salem, Oregon that placed chocolate covered coffee beans on the lids of their to-go cups for each customer who was in need of their daily caffeine fix. What started as an unusually strong interest in coffee for Savannah, especially for someone so young, has now manifested into a full-fledged obsession.
A native Northwesterner turned So-Cal sunshine girl, she has no memory of ever not loving coffee. Most kids, and even quite a few adults, absolutely hate the taste of coffee, especially the bitterness that some lesser-quality or poorly-made coffee takes on, but Savannah has never complained. Unquestionably, she understands that coffee in general is an acquired taste—one that she’s very happy to possess—and now is very grateful to work with an outstanding team that not only loves coffee as much as her, but never makes a bitter cup.
After just one year in the industry and a trip to LA for Barista Nation, she realized that there is an enormous amount of opportunities available for people who want to make a career in coffee. A dozen or so reality checks, a few major obstacles to overcome and several Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Barista Camps and Expo trips later, she obtained her Level One and Level Two SCA Barista Certifications. After that, she knew this is exactly where she wanted to be with her career and ultimately decided to take it a step further to become a Lead Instructor for SCA.
One of the most important aspects about the industry for her is the amount of truly passionate people involved. A large majority of these people, including Savannah, spend their time volunteering for SCA events that are truly impactful in making a difference and continuing to fuel the authentic and unique art of creating an irresistibly beautiful and deliciously memorable cup of coffee.
Savannah’s most recent endeavor is founding the San Diego Coffee Training Institute (SDCTI), a non-profit organization that aims to empower and elevate vulnerable populations (homeless, foster care youth, previously incarcerated individuals, and others) to self-sufficiency through the advancement of coffee. These students receive specialized training in the form of SCA certified classes, workforce skills and job placement. For more information about SDCTI, visit SDCTI.org
As an industrial microbiologist—both by education and for 30 years by trade—Greg never really imagined that he’d find himself, as he is today, thoroughly involved and immensely intrigued by working in the specialty coffee industry.
After discovering more specifics about the complexity and level of science and technology that is actually involved, he was fascinated at the sheer amount of effort and expertise that is required in order to roast and brew just an above average cup of coffee, let alone one that positively stops coffee aficionados in their tracks. From that moment on and to this day, he has been hooked on continuously learning the endless intricate nuances, varieties and methods that goes into every detail of creating specialty coffee.
Greg loves to spend most of his time outdoors, especially since San Diego has the absolute best climate of all the places he’s lived previously. He’s inspired by the sunshine, mountains, beaches and ocean, which of course is also a no-brainer when it came down to aligning his core values with those of Café Virtuoso as a major proponent of taking impactful steps that benefit the environment as well as other people by being a truly sustainable business.