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The Verso L’alto family: Hannah (Flanders) and Johnny Richard (both ’13), with their four children and sister Samantha Flanders (’15)
The Verso L’alto family: Hannah (Flanders) and Johnny Richard (both ’13), with their four children and sister Samantha Flanders (’15)

When her Senior Thesis advisor, Dr. Jared Kuebler, treated Samantha Flanders (’15) to her first cup of home-roasted coffee, the experience would change her life. “Several times throughout the semester, he would invite students into his home and would do cupping sessions of his fresh-roasted coffee,” Miss Flanders recently explained to a reporter from her hometown newspaper. “It’s hard to go back once you’ve experienced really fresh coffee.”

Five years after her graduation, coffee would become her life’s work. Miss Flanders is the co-founder of Verso L’alto Coffee Roasters, along with her sister and brother-in-law, Hannah (Flanders) and Johnny Richard (both ’13). “Sam shared her love of coffee roasting with John and me,” Mrs. Richard recalls. “After two years of roasting on vintage popcorn poppers for friends and family, the three of us decided to take this hobby to the next level and invest in a 1.5kg studio roaster and to start a business.”

Verso L’alto Coffee Roasters officially opened shop in December 2020, and its first year of business has been a tremendous success. “In addition to a steady stream of online sales,” Mrs. Richard reports, “we have participated in several local artisan markets over the summer, signed a contract to be the exclusive coffee vendor for the's online sales, hosted a coffee bar at the Napa Institute, as well as roasted sample gift favors for private events” — among them, Thomas Aquinas College’s 50th Anniversary Gala in October:

“We are thrilled with how far we have come this first year,” she adds, “and look forward to expanding within the next year.”

The company’s Italian name translates to “to the heights,” a beloved expression of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, the roastery’s patron. “We adopted this motto for our family business because it dares us to direct ourselves to the highest good and challenges us to unearth the beatific within the everyday,” says Miss Flanders. “When we view the world this way, we can transform something as simple as brewing a cup of coffee into an extraordinary moment.”

While it was their time at TAC that introduced them to fresh-roasted coffee, these young entrepreneurs also credit their Catholic liberal education with preparing them to share their gifts and talents in the marketplace. “The education that we received at Thomas Aquinas College has guided our entrepreneurial pursuits, not for the roasting itself, but for the way we have chosen to brand our company and for our vision for Verso L’alto Coffee Roasters,” reflects Mrs. Richard. “At Thomas Aquinas College we were immersed in a culture of truth and beauty, and in the curriculum we often reflected on man’s desires to seek the highest good. In addition to sharing our love of fresh-roasted coffee beans, we wish to invite our customers to seek the highest good for themselves.”