By Narayan Khakurel, KATHMANDU :: Nepal is known for drinking tea as a country, which is why it is interesting to see that the tides are turning. It seems that coffee is a drink that is now thriving in Asia, more and more people in Asia are flocking to coffee shops for social gatherings; likewise the coffee culture in Nepal is also noted as a fascinating fact. There are very few coffee shops as a brand in town, but many are independent coffee shops which prove the coffee industry in Nepal has huge potential.
Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, today is not the same. Time has changed, so has the coffee community and its local culture too. Decade ago, most of the streets were openly boiling teas on those days when you were simply seeking to sip a hot drink, either to warm up your body or to start a conversation with your partners. Same place or if you are walking by the city boulevards nowadays, surely you will find number of coffee shops on your left and right, where the fancy espresso machines are brewing coffee throughout the day. In recent years, the coffee consumption in Nepal has taken a different direction. Not only tourists, but also a lot of local people have started to drink coffee. Even though, coffee values in Nepal are not old, several coffee drinks have become familiar among coffee lovers. Espresso based drink such as Americano, Cafe Latte, Cappuccino, Mocha and also filter coffee are frequently ordered at coffee shops.
On other hand, Nepal is also aggressively growing to establish more and more coffee shops promoting the local Nepali Highland coffee beans. There are more than 300 coffee shops now in various towns which were probably less than 20 on 2003A.D. But these days going for a coffee is fashionable move for Nepal. Drinking coffee is like a trend now and probably after some years it could be a need of people who drink coffee to feel good, not necessarily as a need but again the lifestyle is changing day by day. Coffee culture in Nepal is beginning to be accepted and appeals to the adventurous, open-minded, young, affluent, urban consumers in cities like Durbarmarg, Thamel, Jamsikhel, Bouddha, Bhaktapur, New Road and Pokhara. In Nepal coffee drinkers generally consist of overseas returnees, expats, educated professionals, travel-tourism involved people, officers, Bankers, Journalists, college students and more. The growth of these consumers bodes well for the high-end coffee market. The concern at this point of time is Nepal still needs better coffee farm and processing facilities to boost up the overall coffee business and the quality of Nepali coffee beans.
Free WIFI, comfort couches or sofa, newspapers, magazines or books to browse, TV screens, even sometime games, soothing music etc. are the pulling features for people to hang out into coffee shops. Not only this, they also would like to know about a coffee production line since some particular places of Nepal produces Arabica coffee and export to USA, UK, Japan & other countries. They like to sit down and do coffee talk with friends in coffee shops, it’s not like in USA, they like coffee to go. I have noticed that people love to read the complementary magazines, enjoy a friendly chat, use the free WiFi network, or conduct a business meeting and these all things are available at most of the coffee shops in town, that brought the popularity of coffee culture in short span of time in Nepal. The coffee trend in Nepal skyrocketed despite of many barriers, unfortunately being developing country. Conversely, remembering the time of going back to my school times, my mother used to boil tea and spread some Nescafe dust on top to call the drink Coffee. Even if someone asks coffee, Nescafe was the only one brand for many years in my home, and making coffee means to boil in a stove-pot. People at a snail’s pace started to drink coffee in various occasions. At the time, they only knew just two types: milk coffee and no milk coffee, but now it has totally changed. Nowadays, even youngsters know about coffee, and they use different names such as Espresso, Latte, Cappuccino, Americano, Mocha, Mochiato and more. Today, there are many coffee shops around the city & the number is growing. I would like to call it Coffee Revolution. However, I have come across a few times people who would like to differentiate themselves from others by putting themselves in a bit of a “higher class” by drinking coffee as opposed to tea where generally, the local people in Nepal are tea lovers. A phrase- “Coffee destroys the sleep due to caffeine” became popular in an effort to bring tea in priority in Nepal. But today coffee has a different story. Most of the coffee drinkers are more open-minded to Western influences that have made their way into Nepal and are eager to show it through coffee consumption. The customers when they step into Coffee Shop, they expect to be pampered with an experience of relaxation and comfort. They prefer the coffee experience providing a uniquely different atmosphere with comfortable seats, WiFi, various flavoured drinks, bakeries and some light snacks at the same time.
Looking into past, Nepal’s coffee history started with a monk, Hira Giri, who brought in 1938 the first coffee seeds from Burma to Gulmi District in Nepal. And the commercial coffee growing in Nepal is only 2 decades old, within this period; the international demand of Nepali Arabica coffee is so high where the production is only 400 tons yearly, i.e. 10 percent of the demand size. According to Coffee expert /International organic inspector, Mr. Rajendra Prasad Devkota about the scope of Nepali coffee- Coffee is emerging as a likely agro enterprise with great potential to provide farm employment and income generation opportunities in the mid hills of Nepal. Coffee is cultivated in Nepal with no use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides also known as organic by default. This crop has an important occupation in the rural economics with massive participation of marginal, poor and down trodden class of rural communities, and has contributed for the soil conservation, bio-diversity maintenance and watershed balance in the mid-hills of Nepal. The quality of coffee refers particularly to the Taste, flavor, aroma, body, slightly acidity and lower caffeine content known perfect coffee. The coffee of Nepal has been described as rustic in the cup with a mild acidity but perfect taste, flavor and body collectively called perfect aroma coffee. Which are similar to Colombian and Blue mountain (Jamaican coffee/expensive coffee of the world ).organic , fair-trade shade grown , bird friendly and specialty these are the quality lead system which provides trust, quality, and premium price. It is reported that the organic coffee fetches 10-33% premium in the international markets, in the organic certification system, Grower Group Certification is the best system as reasonable, affordable and efficient way but not practiced. Since 1990 almost farmers are adopted the organic principles as group and cooperatives. So easy to get the organic certificate due to minimum conversion period and good documentation system as other crops. However, the quality of the final product depends upon two activities pre -harvesting and post-harvesting. Nepalese coffee producers, processors are not skilled, trained and equipped with adequate expertise to the extent needed at present about quality. Despite of this, due to the suitable and diverse climatic condition of Nepal, Nepalese coffee has been considered to be of high quality. International coffee experts like Mr. Miricion Salinas and Mr. Paul Katzet have put up this view.
Two more decades from now, Nepali coffee can be recognized as a world class coffee if the coffee growers, roasters and related group/organization prepare seriously to overcome all the challenges with an undertaking to promote & sell the Nepali coffee worldwide.
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