Mostra’s head roaster, best in the US, takes on the world
Winning 2020 Roaster of the Year absolutely blew us away. It gifted us a gateway to provide our brand with a platform to do precisely what we set out to do, promote and circulate awareness about specialty coffee from the Philippines. After winning, and all the positive, joyous things that followed, we knew there was more to work towards. As Mostra translates to “performance” in Italian, the US Roaster Championships seemed fitting to be next.
Nick Berardi’s talents range from far and wide, to say the least. His passion for coffee and people reflects in his work and daily conversations. An ambition driven by a desire to be better through his detail-oriented nature indeed places him among the best. But you might be asking yourself, why Mostra, Nick? From giving his time to help Mostra with a large roasting order to finally joining the team in August of 2019, all roads have led to this one. It seems that the only way to go from here is up; well, and across the world to Milan to the World of Coffee Championships. After being named 2020 Micro Roaster of the Year, it only made sense that the US Roaster Championship qualifiers was where we should head next. Prior to being named Head Roaster, Nick had only been roasting coffee for about five months. He recalls the feelings heading into qualifiers. He says,
“I’ve been the roaster for five months, so it’s not going to look bad if I don’t do well. Maybe if I didn’t qualify, then we’re still roaster of the year for 2020 [...] We’re doing something right.”
At the US Coffee Championships, competitors green grade a compulsory coffee, make a roast plan and roast their assigned coffee onsite. Participants traveled from far and wide to prove their skills to esteemed judges in multiple sections of the contest, including coffee tasters, baristas, brewers, coffee roasters competition, and more. Just two or three weeks after the Orange County Qualifiers, COVID struck, the world paused, and time seemed to either stand still for some or pass ever so slowly for others. The shutdown extended the time between qualifiers and finals and allowed Nick time to ponder on his journey with Mostra. In a time of pure uncertainty, Nick explains that something good came from catching up with his inner self.
“I always question myself, but now, I [can] question myself with confidence.”
Whether it’s big questions, like how to move forward through a global pandemic, or more uncomplicated thoughts, like how can I make this coffee taste creamier, Nick now approaches questions differently.
“It’s not uncertainty leading to the questions; it’s saying, ‘Okay, this is where we are. How can we improve?’”
Questions like this ultimately led to his success in both qualifiers at the US Roaster Championship finals in Boston this past April. Participants gather on Day 0 to practice before the competition commences on Day 1, while judges watch them closely to ensure roasters are preparing their beans and their beans only. When Day 1 hits, roasters have 5 minutes to prepare the roaster, followed by a 40-minute window to roast their coffee. By the end of the 40-minutes, roasters must step away from their stations, clear any remaining coffee from their tables, label their bags, and hand off the roasted coffee to the judges, leaving all out of the roaster’s control. However, before Day 1 competition commences, the roaster must create a plan before roasting the coffee and present it to the judges.
“I estimated 13.84% weight loss, which I was dead on with.”
Call it coincidence or intuition, but Nick was right on the money with the roast plan he created, with numbers that were not necessarily specific to the coffee but were unique to him. Nick practiced everything on the plan, and all that was left was to prove that the batch he was going to roast was special, intentional, and 1st place wort
“For my plan, I decided to take what I had learned about that coffee and make a plan that was important to me. Instead of doing 600 grams of coffee, I did 632 grams of coffee because 6/02 was my dog’s birthday. I [had] a starting temperature of 356 degrees because 56 was the street address I grew up on. I knew that these numbers would be in the range of what I wanted for the coffee. I knew that this size and batch would work well for me…but I’m also going to make it mean something.”
As vital as the logistics are to a competition, I would argue that the experience is the most important part. Experiences create perspectives unique to each one of us and our lives. Building relationships, meeting, and talking with other roasters was something along the lines of “once in a lifetime.” It all flashed in a blur, from thinking he wouldn’t make the podium to actually winning the entire competition, and finally, to all the interviews Nick was swept off to, once in a lifetime perfectly suits this moment. After winning and calling his dad, he realized he had come quite full circle. Nick’s father immigrated from Italy when he was a young boy and moved to Cleveland, Ohio. And now? Nick is headed to Milan to compete and represent the country in the roasters portion of the competition at the World of Coffee Championships next week! Judges will score competitors on dozens of criteria covering pre-roasting preparation and production roasting skills, sorting through and crowning the best roaster in the world. Will Nick come out on top, and will Mostra be home to the best roaster in the world? It all comes down to the journey.
During the US Roasters Championships, he remembers the feeling of simply hoping to place Top 6 while taking notes on what to do next year.
“Mostra means performance; if we’re going to be roasting, we need to try to roast at the highest level. If we don’t qualify, we’ll do it in the future because that is what we do. Regardless of the win, we decided we’re going to do this, fingers crossed, hope to do something good for Mostra, and bring attention to our mission.”
So, from the farm, into Nick’s hands, and finally to your cup, we are pleased to announce Nick’s Picks. Nick has personally selected three unreleased limited-edition coffee sets, which happen to be some of his favorites. To elevate Philippine farmers, each bundle features a different Philippine coffee plus contains a new, exclusive limited edition coffee. Nick’s Picks are hitting our website on June 22nd, so set your alarms, mark your calendars, and make sure to get your hands on these before they run out! Sneak peek below…