Roasting coffee beans is hard work at the best of times. Doing it on a truck, with unfamiliar roasting equipment, just kicks up the pressure.
Such were the conditions under which Mark Boccard, owner of Southdown Coffee in Huntington and Oyster Bay, found himself earlier this month, competing against some of the most skilled roasters in the country during the U.S. Coffee Championships in Kansas City. He walked away with third place in the roasting competition, out of a field that began with dozens of contenders.
"I was hoping I'd be in the top six" said Boccard, but he also thought he "bombed" one portion of the event. "Then I started thinking this would not be my year, but I did really well."
The U.S. Roaster Championship (USRC) is an annual competition with a few rounds; the competitors are charged with grading green (or unroasted) beans, creating a roast plan, and then roasting that coffee on site. The first qualifier had 36 competitors, as did the second, said Boccard, with the top 12 from each round advancing to the next.
When Boccard made it to the final, he posted a photo to Instagram: "You're looking at one sleep deprived, manic bag of nerve endings about to head into that big red roasting truck to compete." The beans given to the competitors were from Colombia.
Back on his home turf, Boccard roasts beans at Southdown Coffee in Huntington for both that spot and another in Oyster Bay. He said a third Southdown is set to open in Glen Cove later this year, in the former JH Coles Homestead on Glen Street, and he will eventually move roasting operations there — opening up more seating in Huntington, which is probably sweet news to those who frequent the tiny spot.
Southdown Coffee, 210-B Wall St. in Huntington and 49 Audrey Ave. in Oyster Bay. southdowncoffee.com.