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misha's
102 South Patrick Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703-548-4089

Hours: 6:30AM - 8:00PM  7 Day a week!

misha's Coffeehouse and Coffee Roaster

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In 1991, I opened Misha’s, a very small coffeehouse with a coffee roaster, in the Old Town section of Alexandria Virginia. In 1996, five years later, we were doing $1,000,000 of business from 1000 square feet of floor space, and we were voted the Best Coffeehouse in the entire Washington D.C. metropolitan area, by the readers of the Washingtonian Magazine – one little store beating all of the multi-unit chains with their presumably much larger customer bases – and all of this without any advertising. The phenomenal growth and the undeniable success that we have experienced are based on the outstanding quality of our coffee, and the understandable enthusiasm of our customers. Though the secret of our success is very simply said, the superlative quality of the coffee at Misha’s has extensive underpinnings.

All of our coffee is 100% arabica. It is high-grown and hand-picked.

There are many many species of coffee trees in the world. The most flavorful beans available from any coffee growing country are produced by its arabica trees. At Misha’s all of the coffee is 100% arabica. Coffee trees flower and grow cherries. Each cherry contains two coffee beans. The quality of the coffee beans will depend largely on the species of the tree; on the local soil, weather, and available light; and on the care given to cultivation, harvesting, and processing. A single type of green coffee is called "varietal" and is designated by its country of origin. All varietals receive an agricultural grade, such as AA or Supremo, from the government of origin. The grade reflects the size of the beans, but not necessarily the quality of the cup. A large bean may lack the density required for rich, deep flavor. We use only the highest agricultural grade for any given variety, unless a lesser grade actually produces a better cup. The richness of the cup depends more on the altitude of growth than the size of the bean. Higher grown beans mature slower; they are denser and more flavorful. All of our coffees are high-grown (altitudes ranging from 3000-6000 feet). Our coffees are also hand-picked. Hand-picking is necessary for the finest coffee because the cherries on every tree ripen at different times. Only ripe, red cherries yield great coffee beans, so a tree must be harvested by hand to avoid mixing underripe green cherries and overripe black into the harvest. The large burlap bags of green coffee beans surrounding the roaster in our store hold varietals from around the world waiting to be roasted. The bags are labeled with the country of origin, the agricultural grade, the growing region, and, sometimes, the specific estate; we supply you with this information for each varietal in our list of roasted coffees.

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We have the knowledge and skill, and we take the care, to roast our coffee perfectly.

The flavor of coffee is contained as a volatile oil that is released only when the green coffee beans are roasted. The roasting period lasts about 15 minutes. In lighter, drier roasts, the coffee oil develops and remains inside the bean. In darker roasts, which are done at a slightly higher temperature, the coffee oil develops and is pushed out to the surface of the bean. As the roast progresses the beans also grow gradually darker, slightly sweeter, and the coffee’s natural acidity is tempered. Five widely recognized types of roasts are distinguished as follows:

  • Roast: City Full City Light French French Italian
  • Color: Tan Brown Brown Dark Brown Black
  • Surface: Dry Flashes of Oil Oily Oily Oily

Any variety of coffee can be developed with any of these five roasts. Each variety and roast will combine as an entirely unique coffee; it is a matter of taste which varietal and roast combinations you prefer. We prefer to use two basic roasts on all of our coffee beans at Misha’s. We chose the full city roast for the beautiful balance it holds in a coffee between caramel sweetness and snappy acidity. We chose the french roast for its depth and body, for its bittersweet smokiness, and for its mellow, but still distinguished, tanginess. Since we roast all of our own coffee in small batches right on site at Misha’s, we have the versaltility to chose either a full city or a french roast for any given variety and batch. By occasionally changing the roast on one variety or another from full city to french, or vice versa, we explore a wide range of possible tastes. The jump from coffee consumer to coffee connoisseur can be made only when we are able to experience and enjoy a full spectrum of varietals with various roasts; this is only possible when we have the control and flexibility that roasting in small batches gives us. There is always an abundant assortment of full city and french roasted coffee at Misha’s, all available either whole bean or brewed. You may also order a batch of any varietal or blend roasted to your taste.

We are expert tasters with the artistic talent necessary to create masterful blends.

The brewed cup may be tasted and judged in terms of five variable elements. The strength of the cup is the ratio of coffee to to water in the brew. The aroma is the unique smell of any variety or blend of coffee. The body is the richness of the cup i.e., your sense of its density, its lightness or heaviness (analogous to wine). The acidity is the coffee’s natural tartness, or snappiness. The flavor is a combination of distinctive tastes elementary to a particular varietal or blend. The brief descriptions that make up our coffee list are based on tasting all the coffees with a full city roast. A french roast on any of the varietals will deepen the body and soften the natural acidity of the coffee. The only way to develop real connoisseurship regarding the taste structure of coffee is to cup different varieties side-by-side, in order to isolate and compare the five basic components of taste. Only when one has grasped of the basic taste structures of varietal coffees can one approach an understanding of the beautiful complexity and balance achieved in great varietal blends. Artful coffee blending depends upon a knowledge and gifted approach to the way the five taste vectors of different varieties will combine in the cup. Basically, coffee blends are built by using the taste components of one or more varieties, developed with one or more types of roast, either to reinforce each other, additively, or to counterbalance each other. There are obviously an infinite number of possible blends, given a choice of any number of varieties, a choice of roasts for each variety, and an unbounded set of ratios to use for blending them. Knowledge well-grounded in tasting and evaluating the different elements of each variety, and an artistic sense for how they may most advantageously be combined, is the only sure way to make a tasty, desirable blend. A truly great blend is a rare and masterful thing. At Misha’s , we stake our lives on ours, every single day.

We’ve mastered our craft; we brew great coffee and make espresso drinks with flair.

Our coffeehouse provides service for any level of coffee connoisseurship or interest. We have three of our blends (Caravan Blend, Route 66, and Earl’s Private Stock) and one varietal, brewed, fresh, and ready to go, every day. We will also prepare any of our 24 coffees (or any blend of your own devising) to order, within minutes, either as a french press or as an Americano. We also prepare a full line of espresso drinks – espresso, cappuccino, café latte, café mocha – either hot or iced, and always made with the consumate skill and flair that we’re known for at Misha’s.

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Only those who love our work, and have a talent for it, can survive our training.

The coffee you get from us is always, and only, prepared by people who love their work; only people with that strong emotional connection can muster the necessary spirit to struggle for the impeccability that we demand regarding their work making coffee in our coffeehouse. Those who have the spirit for our work still have to demonstrate a talent for it. Only those with talent can truly master the knowledge and skills that underpin the incomparable coffee that we serve everyday in our coffeehouse.

I still maintain total control over every batch we roast, and every drink we serve, by focussing our work at Misha’s in one location. Thanks for your interest in our work.

Misha

misha's
102 South Patrick Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703-548-4089