Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Who is the greenest coffee roaster in San Diego?

My money goes to Café Virtuoso (1616 National Avenue, Barrio Logan, 619-550-1830).

None

Why? Because they claim to be the only 100 percent organic coffee roasters company in town. And I haven’t heard anyone challenge that. (Others certainly come close, but aren’t ready to give up interesting coffees like mocha coffees from Yemen, and Blue Mountain coffee from Jamaica, which can’t claim to be totally organic).

Besides, I happen to be here, passing by their brick building and their one outside table and yellow umbrella.

“Advancing Civilization One Bean At a Time,” it says.

None

I go in and get a cup of their “Virtuoso blend." Costs a couple Washingtons. Lovely, smooth. Blend of Central American, South American and Indonesian beans. Guess this blending and the roasting is where skill comes in.

“If you compare coffee to wine,” says Stephan vonKolkow, one of Virtuoso’s founders, “wine has around 150 flavor compounds. Coffee has 5-600. It has incredible variety.”

So why go organic?

“Just because it feels right. You certainly pay more. We pay $2 per pound or more for all our coffees, plus 50 cents a pound more for coffee that’s officially fair trade. And that $2 and 50 cents does get back to the farmer, not some middleman.”

Been thinking about this since I heard Saturday was World Fair Trade Day. I’d always heard how coffee growers are usually royally screwed by middlemen in the coffee trade. And forced to grow coffee in mono-crop open fields drenched in pesticides and fertilizer, under the punishing plant-growth-forcing sun.

This as opposed to going the slower, more sustainable way of mixing coffee plants with other crops and growing them in the shade of trees, and with no poisons sprayed on them. Coffee’s better, growers and their kids are healthier, the hillsides don’t look like they’d just been rained on by Agent Orange, and we don’t have to wonder how much pesticide we’re downing with each gulp.

But growing coffee plants in the shade can cut their output. “It can drop down to maybe 1/3rd of what [sun-forced, nitrogen-fed] plants produce – at first,” Steve says. “Some research says that’s partly because the coffee plants have become addicted to huge amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. But the plants can be weaned, and then bounce back to 100 percent of their former production in maybe 5-7 years, if they are really well taken care of.”

And then there’s the Silent Spring effect. Pesticides kill all of the bugs, but also the birds, by a combo of poison and starvation. “With shade-grown organic, you need a variety of plants and trees, and you'll get bugs. So you need the birds to feed on the bugs that want your beans. Which is good. Life comes back.”

“And you give people life, too,” says Laurie Britton, another partner. “Our latest is from a cooperative of women from Lake Kivu in the Congo in Africa. Six hundred of them are growing certified organic, fair trade coffee. Beautiful coffee. They can't grow enough for the demand.”

Why women? “Because so many of the men have been killed in their civil wars in the region, like Rwanda. The coffee is being largely grown by their widows.”

I drain my cup. Look at it for a moment.

I tell you: a story in every organic sip.

None

Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close