This is a love story. It’s about a man, a woman and coffee—lots of coffee.
The love part started in 2002 when the woman—Lydia Moreno, a new employee at Fairway in Plainview, and Georgio Testani, the store’s in-house coffee roaster—met for the first time. As Georgio described it: “Our eyes locked and that was it.
The first words I said to her were, ‘Will you marry me?’”
Did he see coffee beans when he looked into her dark eyes? Did he know that she was from Colombia, one of the world’s greatest coffee-growing countries? I do know that he told me of his love by saying, “I’m marrying someone from a coffee-producing country.”
Thirteen years have passed and Georgio and Lydia are married and the owners of Georgio’s Coffee Roasters in Farmingdale. They are spending their lives together buying, roasting, selling and drinking coffee.
But, back to their story. Georgio came to coffee when he was about 26. He was an out-of-work guitar player when he started repairing coffee machines for a company. Next he delivered coffee to restaurants in New York City, then moved into management, ultimately in charge of inventory and warehousing huge amounts of coffee. Around that time, he started visiting coffee farms and roasters in Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama and Mexico. He traveled to cafés in Italy, Germany and Austria.
“On one trip, I brought a 750-pound coffee roaster back from Europe on a plane,” he said. “I could not wait six weeks for the ship to deliver it.” Georgio doesn’t do anything halfway.
Lydia was born to coffee. Her first 12 years were lived in a small town; the family had a farm where they grew coffee just for home consumption. “Everyone grows coffee in Columbia,” said Lydia. She attended high school in Bogotá and then studied business administration at the university. She tried to make a good life for herself and her family, but at that time, Colombia was under the control of paramilitary forces. Extortion was the rule of the day. They seized the cows on her farm and took control of the gas station that she had purchased. “They told me that if I didn’t give money, they would get me and my family,” she said.
She had a visa to the United States and in 2000 came here, figuring she would stay for around five years, sending back money to support her family, hoping that life would get better in her home country. But then she met Georgio two years later and everything changed.
“Before Georgio,” she says, “life was terrible.” She didn’t speak English and was working three jobs, taking whatever work she could, and mostly getting just two or three hours of sleep a night. They married and opened their business, first on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington and now at the current location at 1965 New Highway in Farmingdale.
Lydia has been able to return to Colombia and the couple travels there once a year. Georgio was astonished by the beauty of the country. “There’s no other place like it on earth,” he said. “I have quite a love for the people, the landscape and of course, the coffee.”
Lydia became a citizen four years ago. “I’m happy because I feel secure,” she said. “I like capitalism and the business. I’m working and I’m happy.”
The Testanis’ passion for coffee extends to supporting the farmers and they buy direct whenever possible. Giving Georgio the last word, he challenges coffee lovers to support coffee growers by spending a little more for high-quality coffee. “If five to ten percent of the world would buy these kinds of coffees, it would change 90 percent of the world for these growers.” It all comes down to the consumer, he said. “Feed the farmer, instead of starving the farmer.”
Regarding their business and the high price they pay for coffee, he added, “We don’t make a fortune; we make a living.”