Fil-Am owned café pushes Philippine-sourced coffee beans, Filipino dessert flavors in drinks

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Despite the ubiquity of coffee giants, neighborhood cafés are still appreciated by locals, and for visitors, it’s the best way to get a glimpse into the local scene.

If you happen to be in the San Diego area, a new café and retail shop owned by a group of Filipino-Americans opened in Carmel Mountain Ranch earlier this year.

Mostra Coffee comes from the mission of Fil-Am owners — Jelynn Malone, Sam Magtanong, Beverly Magtanong, Mike Arquines and RJ Ocubillo — to put the Philippines on the map as a source of speciality grade coffee beans. After doing philanthropy work with Gawad Kalinga in the Philippines, they saw it as a way to eradicate poverty by working with Filipino farmers through fair-trade and direct-trade practices.

“This was our mastermind plan: If we could get to a point where we could source beans from the Philippines, bring them to America [and] brand a world-class coffee brand, we could create a demand for it on a global level. Then, in turn, that would mean roasters from around the world would start traveling to the Philippines and ordering coffee, which would provide jobs for farmers,” Malone told the Asian Journal in an interview.

Though Malone had originally wanted to open a bakery, the owners took the route of a coffee roasting facility that would begin with sourcing beans from usual places like Brazil, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia. But during a trip to Mindanao, they found beans and got them graded.

“For coffee to be specialty grade, it has to score above an 83 out of 100. And this coffee from the Philippines was graded a 95,” Malone said.

Before the new retail space, Mostra had been operating at a warehouse for the past four years and opened a coffee cart outside — after people had started coming to the facility looking for brewed coffee. It went from one to four days a week, drawing lines out the door and down the sidewalk.

“With all of that energy around us, we were like, ‘We should probably open up a retail space where we can actually serve people every day on regular hours,’” Malone explained. “But being a coffee company and we’re in a suburban neighborhood in San Diego so anywhere there’s a Starbucks or a Coffee Bean, you can’t open up a coffee shop or even a cafe. So we finally found a spot in one of the big shopping centers and we’re in a Home Depot shopping center right next door to See’s Candies. After we found this spot, we just decided we’re going to go full-blown retail here. So we’re now open seven days a week.”

Mostra, the Italian word for ‘show’ or ‘exhibition,’ comes from taking Malone (a film and TV actress/host) and Beverly Magtanong’s (professional opera singer) performance backgrounds and translating them into a business.

“We took it to another level when we brought on our partner Mike, a fine dining chef, because a lot of the stuff he does is very visual. So when we’re doing our drinks, it’s a very visual experience, we plate our drinks,” Malone shared. “It’s like a show, and even the whole experience — from the decor, space and customer service — almost takes you to a different place.”

One of the standout menu items is the Bibingka Creme Brulee Latte, which is torched like the regular creme brulee dessert and topped with toasted coconut and brown butter. They’re also known for the Campfire Latte and cold brews like the ‘Choco-Nana’ (remake of own housemade banana milk) and ‘One Bra-zillion Coconuts,’ which has shredded coconut from the Philippines and vanilla beans (think along the lines of an Almond Joy).

Unlike bigger coffee shops, the owners of Mostra emphasize the value of customer service and making sure that customers feel welcome and part of a community.

“All my partners and I like to attribute that to being Filipino. We feel like we’ve brought so much of that Filipino family and hospitality asset that were instilled in us growing up into our business,” Malone said.

As for her lessons learned, it’s the hard work and grit to run a business, as well as the benefits it brings to the local and greater economy.

“Mostra was inspired and born from philanthropy work. We intended to give back and help people, so we did something that came from a true and honest, unselfish place. Beyond just creating opportunities for the Filipino people in the Philippines, we wanted to help create opportunities for our own families. We wanted to create opportunities in our local community like creating jobs. When the intentions are true and good and you are passionate and fulfilled with what you do, then working every day is exciting,” she said.

To follow Mostra’s latest creations and collaborations — including a current one with Fil-Am-owned Baked Dessert Bar — catch them on Instagram at @mostracoffee or  

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is an award-winning editor and communications strategist based in Los Angeles with experience in content, strategy and branding for media ecosystems, inclusive fintech startups, small businesses and direct-to-consumer products.

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