Story and Photos by J.D DiGiovanni, Staff Writter and Photographer.
Mostra Coffee is hard to find. Five or ten minutes after my phone announced that we had arrived at the coffee roasters, I was still circling around a nondescript parking lot in Rancho Bernardo peering past vaguely named businesses and karate studios looking for the right building.
Yet, enough residents of North County are sick of the Starbucks and the Coffee Bean that they their way to Mostra. In the past year, the demand proved to be a bit too high for the shop to be productive, so in a kind of customer relations jiu-jitsu, Mostra opens up only on Wednesdays, from 10 am to 5 pm, keeping doors closed to focus on work throughout the week.
Even with all the enthusiasm from residents of Rancho Bernardo, Mostra does it’s business mainly through it’s wholesale accounts which include Tender Greens, Blue Mug Coffee and Tea, and Common Theory among others. In addition to the wholesale and retail accounts Mostra is a frequent collaborator with beer breweries like Karl Strauss, AleSmith, and Stone. Their work with brewers has received high praise from beer reviewers, two of their AleSmith collaborations - the Speedway Stout and the AleSmith/Mike Keller/Beer_Geek collaboration received 97% scores on beer advocate. (Just this week (February 23rd) Mostra’s newest collaboration with AleSmith, the 100% Kona Coffee Speedway Stout, will be available for sale).
As Jelynn Sophia Malone, founding member of Mostra, tells it - the high quality concentrated cold-brew is attractive to brewers because it limits the dilution that occurs when coffee is added to a stout. Their past success and close relationship with breweries has built up a kind of momentum when it comes to their beer collaborations.
These collaborations have resulted in an exciting cross-pollination. Mostra’s roaster, Mike Arquines recently announced what he’s calling his ‘ode to the beer community’. A cold brew aged in american oak barrels that has notes of vanilla, cherry and rye.
A little less than a month ago, roughly twenty people packed into Mostra’s small warehouse in Rancho Bernardo for a cupping. The purpose of the event was to try and familiarize the back-house of one of Mostra’s accounts, The Cork and Craft, a restaurant in Rancho Bernardo with a focus on craft beer and wine owned by Jelynn’s husband. As each member of the Cork and Craft walked in before the event started, they were greeted with a series of half hug, half handshakes from most everyone at Mostra before sitting down at the table.
The young members of the Mostra family squeezed between the back of chairs and the San Franciscan roaster, placing three ground coffees at the table; a Sumatra Indonesia, Ethiopia Sidamo, and Brazil. The Sumatra was earthy, and had flavors reminiscent of baker’s chocolate, with a thick mouthfeel. Their Brazil had a lower acidity, and a notes of peanut and milk chocolate. The Sidamo was closer to what would be the mainstream of third-wave coffee tastes, with a citrus acidity and sweetness, a silky mouthfeel, and a floral finish. While the complexity of the dry processed Sidamo Ethiopia struck me as the standout among the coffees, the table leaned toward the Sumatra.
The beans that got everyone most excited weren’t roasted.
During the cupping Beverly Magtong held up some of the first beans Motra has sourced outside of InterAmerian Coffee. After two years of sourcing, Mostra has finally been able to get their hands on some beans from the Philippines. The specifics are being intentionally kept a little close to the chest until the crew at Mostra decides what it is they want to do with it - but it represents both a symbolic and real step forward for the small, hard to find roaster in north county.