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 specialty 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 one of the most widely-produced agricultural beverages 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.
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 piqued 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.
Zachariah is a Southern California native who was born in Glendale and grew up in Riverside. As coffee-lover at heart with an extensive background in purchasing, business operations, and sales in various industries including large hotels and produce, it was a natural transition into the specialty coffee industry. He is also a proud military veteran working as an aircraft mechanic serving in Afghanistan and Asia.
Zachariah oversees all of new account development to bring on new wholesale customers and assists Cafe Virtuoso’s existing wholesale customers to ensure that they have everything they need to brew our quality organic coffee in restaurants, cafes, hotels, casinos and more.
When not at work, you’ll find Zachariah enjoying one of his many hobbies including staying fit with kickboxing as well as painting using watercolor and acrylic, working as a DJ, and as a self-proclaimed “graffiti hunter,” finding amazing graffiti art throughout Southern California and snapping photos to capture for his collection.
A transplant from Long Island, New York, Lindsay moved to San Diego in 2016 after receiving her degree in nutrition from SUNY Suffolk. Her obsession with coffee began at a very young age through the exposure of her mother’s calculated morning coffee ritual, which eventually found its way to Lindsay’s morning cup as well. Little did she know that this would become the catalyst to begin working in coffee shops in high school and college, and ultimately to seek a career in the specialty coffee industry.
After relocating to San Diego, Lindsay realized that her knowledge about coffee, in general, was just scratching the surface and had a strong urge to dive in headfirst. Cafe Virtuoso was the perfect fit based on her shared values about responsibly-sourced, sustainable, and quality organic ingredients stemming from her background in nutrition and food sourcing.
When not managing Cafe Virtuoso’s retail cafe, you’ll most likely find Lindsay exploring the outdoors with her dog or putting her passion and natural talent in art and interior design to good use. Currently, Lindsay is completing her certification to also be an SCA instructor at The San Diego Coffee Training Institute.
Iah was born on Whidbey Island, Washington where he lived for four months before his family packed up and moved to Southern California.
He received his bachelor’s from UC Irvine in social sciences as well as in film studies, which both significantly contributed to his worldview, but didn’t necessarily influence his career path as much as he thought it might after graduating.
A job as a barista that began right after college was actually what initially piqued his curiosity in coffee. From there it became not only a job that lasted nine years, but also his favorite hobby. Iah began researching by studying other coffee shops, tasting different bean varieties, sampling roast levels, grinding, brewing, and everything in between in order to understand the complex science behind every aspect of this industry. This ultimately led to him joining Cafe Virtuoso as the production manager and one of three members of our expert coffee roasting team.