Loyola Magazine

Irresistible flavors of China

Inspired by his experience studying abroad, 2006 graduate founds and expands café chain in China

Greg Savarese, ’06, wasn’t planning to study abroad until his girlfriend at the time told him she was headed to Spain.

“I didn’t want to go to Spain,” he said. “I also didn’t want to be in Baltimore while she was having an adventure in Europe.”

He decided to take the advice of Brian Marana, ’04, who worked with him in Campus Ministry, and spend a semester at the Beijing Center.

“When I went back to Loyola, I knew I wanted to do something with China. Everything I wrote the rest of junior or senior year, no matter what the class, had some kind of bent on China,” said Savarese, who earned a communication degree with a minor in marketing. After graduation, he was hired as the recruiter for the Beijing Center and decided to live in China full time. He created a new concept for a café inspired by the café culture of Hong Kong and Singapore and the flavors of the Greater China region.

After two years of building the Ricci Café brand, which was named in honor of the late 16th-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, the first storefront opened, with two more locations planned for this year. The café serves drinks and foods featuring flavors of Greater China, but not typically offered in a cafe-style setting, such as Jasmine Banana Cream Pie.

Their drinks include a Ricci-invented Sichuan Spicy Mocha, among other flavors—such as ginger, lavender, jasmine, and cucumber—that appeal to the local palettes.

“We kept the espresso bar with its lattes and mochas, and we used ingredients from Greater China,” said Savarese, whose team includes Omar Ali, ’02.

“That was our own invention. My team and I were there ourselves, together in the kitchen, infusing sugar syrup with chili peppers.”

Savarese is grateful to former Sellinger School dean Rev. Ron Anton, S.J., for creating the Beijing Center.

“If it wasn’t for his dedication to creating a world-class program, I might not have come to China. He made something really wonderful.”