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San Diego's Mostra Coffee 'roasted' the competition at the US Coffee Championships

A local boutique coffee company brought home a big prize at the recent U.S. Coffee Championships. KPBS North County reporter Alexander Nguyen pours the details.

Most days, you can find Nick Berardi alone with his roaster at Mostra Coffee’s Carmel Mountain Ranch headquarters.

"Before the sun's up, before anybody's here, I'm roasting coffee," he said.

That’s because the early morning is the optimal time to roast some coffee varieties. There’s a science to roasting. He has to check the ratios of "conductive, convective and radiant heat throughout the day." Too much heat and the coffee could come out bitter.


Despite being a relative novice in roasting, Berardi was recently named the best roaster in the country at the U.S. Coffee Championships in Boston.

He qualified for the competitions in 2020, before the pandemic hit. At that point, he had been roasting only for a couple of months. Even with two extra years of experience, winning at the U.S. Coffee Championships was still a surreal experience.

"I was just cheering and elated for everybody since they announced six down through two, and I kind of gave one of my co-competitors a fist bump before they announced No. 1 because I kind of had a feeling they were going to announce him as the winner," he said. "So, when they said my name, it just kind of had one of those — I had a little meme going on in my head about, 'Is this real life?'"

This isn’t the first time Mostra won a coffee roasting award, and it was named the 2020 Micro Roaster of the Year by Roast Magazine — an industry trade publication.

The brand was started in 2013 in a garage in 4S Ranch by two friends, Beverly Magtanong and Jelynn Malone, who, at that point, didn't know much about coffee or the industry. They just had a vision — to create a sustainable livelihood for the farmers in the Philippines.


"She and I were doing charity work out in the Philippines where we were building homes for the poor. And we were so moved and inspired by the people," Malone said. "And at the same time, we also witnessed that there was a lot of poverty out there, too. And we were like, what can we do to help create sustainable livelihoods for people out there?"

It just so happens that the Philippines is one of the places in the world that grows specialty coffee, despite not being known for coffee. Malone and Magtanong saw an opportunity to create a demand for coffee from that region of the world.

The two friends then convinced their husbands to buy in on the idea. Malone said admittedly, it was a far-fetched idea.

"Bev is a professional opera singer, and I'm an actor and a TV host," she said. "So our entire childhood and life and careers were all in entertainment and performance."

That was how they came up with the name "Mostra." It's an Italian word that means an exhibition, show or display of works of art.

"Then we actually realized that people drink coffee to perform well in life and everything that they do," Malone said. "So we found the double meaning behind that, and just Bev and I as people."

But it was the core philosophy of the company that drew Berardi in. He hopes that winning the U.S. title would shine a light on Mostra’s mission to eradicate poverty in the Philippines.

“Even before the competition, Sam, one of the owners, texted me that just by qualifying, we were able to shine a light more on those Philippine farmers and already help them out," he said.

And the fact that he won hasn't fully sunk in yet because he's so busy preparing for the World Coffee Roasting Championship this June in Milan.

Still, that raises the question, "What makes for a good coffee roast?"

"We kind of joke around and say that a coffee is done when it speaks to us," he said. "There are different sort of signposts along the journey of roasting coffee."

So, there's an art to the science.

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