You cannot truly appreciate coffee until you have tried Isabella’s Blend at Mischu Coffee Showroom. I love my coffee. I know how I want it to taste, I dislike when it tastes burned and bitter and prefer it black and sweet. The first time I heard this Turkish proverb it perfectly described how coffee should be: “black as hell, hot as death and sweet as love”.
I always liked the aroma of coffee, rich and fragrant. Pleasant. I always felt coffee should taste as it smelled. Growing up, I understood coffee to be an adult drink that was consumed in the mornings to merely wake them up. When I started drinking it myself, it was a slap dash of coffee granules, sugar, milk and hot water. Never thought about it, just drank it and if it was a bit bitter and unpleasant at times, I simply added more sugar. When I realized milk made me a little queasy, I left it out and found I much preferred my coffee black.
It was a friend of mine, and her Italian husband who told me the first rule of making coffee – never use boiling hot water. It needs to cool a bit, a few minutes at least, since it’s the boiling hot water that, when it hits the coffee granules, actually scorches the coffee and makes it taste so bitter and adds that slightly burned taste.
And then my parents and I discovered the Nespresso Machine and coffee pods. This is when I started becoming a serious coffee snob. This is how coffee was meant to taste and was much better than most of the coffee shops I have been to, if not all. Surely there was something wrong with that.
Then I went to a coffee appreciation course at Mischu Coffee Showroom and now, I truly love it and actually understand and appreciate the art of coffee making. In a way it is like baking. A scientific art, that takes skill, patience, practice, timing, and of course, quality coffee.
The owner of Mischu, Mikhael Bou Rjeily, is an award winning Barista, who has been in the coffee industry since 2005 and has a true love and understanding of making the perfect cup of coffee. When you listen to him talk about coffee, you can see his passion and determination to share his knowledge about this popular drink. He created his own coffee blend, Isabella’s Blend (named after his first born daughter), which is a 100% premium quality washed Arabica coffee that is freshly roasted in South Africa.
When I tasted this coffee as an Americano (black espresso topped with water) I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and utterly delicious it was. A connoisseur like Mikhael, would describe it as full-bodied, with fragrant, floral aroma notes, a delicate citrus acidity, fruity flavour and an enjoyable dark chocolate after taste, and being a coffee novice myself, after reading this description, I realized I picked up on all these nuances that I would never have noticed before. And best of all, no burned taste at all!
Mischu’s Coffee Showroom, situated close to the end of Regent Road in Sea Point, is welcoming and bright, with rustic furnishings, decorated with magazines and newspapers inviting all to sit and relax. The aromas that drift out will be sure to embrace those walking by, drawing them in, and whom I guarantee will generate word of mouth appraisal.
In the back, where Mikhael himself gives the coffee appreciation classes, is a state of the art coffee machine, that is the focal point of the room, and although it is a bit intimidating, it still makes one curious and fascinated to know how it works. Comfortable seating surrounds a coffee table making the area cozy in what is quite a spacious room.
Mikhael begins the class with a quick introduction and a video on where coffee comes from, it’s history, the different processes it goes through. He then goes on to talk about what makes a quality coffee, speaks briefly about Isabella’s Blend and explains that many factors can affect a good cup of coffee, even the water that is used! This is followed by a breakdown of the huge coffee machine and it’s different parts as well as the coffee grinder, brush and tamper. It is all of these that work together to make a simple cup of coffee a great cup of coffee.
Within 3 hours, not only will you know how all the equipment works, he demonstrates how fine or course the coffee should be ground, how many grams to use, how many millilitres to express and how to judge if its has been expressed properly. He teaches you how to perfectly foam your milk and pour it into the espresso to create those hearts and leaves, and most importantly how to keep everything clean and hygienic.
He teaches you how to make the perfect cappuccino, how soon it should be served and drank (almost immediately!), how much foam there should actually be (which makes the difference between a flat white, cappuccino and latte), and if you haven’t made it yourself, how to test if it is a good cappuccino.
After all this, you go ‘Phew!’ and want to go outside and give the coffee baristas a hug! This class seriously makes you realize that it is more than just the brand of coffee that makes it good and enjoyable to drink. One of the women in the class (who brought her own machine to be taught on) explained that making Isabella’s Blend at home was completely different and definitely not as nice. Even she exclaimed that she had learned so much and will be practicing everyday until she gets it right. And that is what it is. Practice! Making sure everything is prepared correctly and cleaned after every cup made, since even that can affect the taste!
If you truly are a coffee lover, become a passionate connoisseur by taking one of Mikhael’s classes, and like the woman in my class, bring your own machine if you like! You won’t regret what you learn. Even if you never actually make the coffee yourself, you will appreciate the effort that has gone into your “simple” cup of coffee and that there are many factors that could have produced a “bad” cup.