All that goes into a Cup of Coffee
Is there anything that wakes you up as completely as the smell of freshly brewed coffee? It’s debatable. Many people start their day with a strong cup of coffee. The internet is strewed with memes about how you’re a functionless zombie until you get through that first cup. And Nepal has not been spared the coffee craze. Coffee shops are popping up everywhere in the capital with more and more people falling in love with this strong brew.
It is not just the high end cafes that have been touched by the love for coffee. Even the humblest of farmers and business savvy entrepreneurs are now cashing in on the universal love for these brown beans. Organic coffee farming has been gaining momentum in Nepal for more than a decade. Nepal produces coffee in some of the highest elevations seen in the world. All of the coffee produced in Nepal is of the Arabica variety. A total of more than 650 tons of coffee is now produced in more than 40 districts of Nepal.
Farmers, who previously relied on crops like rice, wheat and vegetables, are now turning towards coffee production. Higher profits from this cash crop as compared to those they had been previously growing has been steering lower income farmers of Nepal towards this crop. Along with this boom in coffee farming, more and more businesses and industries are cropping up that process and distribute these beans, filling in the gap between coffee farmers and coffee enthusiasts. This aromatic bean is proving to be a solid investment and is giving rise to a whole new industry in Nepal.
In order to get a better idea about the state of the coffee industry in Nepal we talked to a few people in the coffee business to get their take on it. These are of course just some of the many companies and individuals who have been working to make coffee culture a reality in Nepal; there are many more established leaders than is possible to include, and new ones still coming up, too.
Everest Coffee is one of the earliest organic coffee producers in Nepal. They have been in the business for around 25 years. Their coffee is a highland Arabica coffee grown between the elevation of 800m to 1700m above sea level. The coffee they sell is fully organic and grown in various parts of Nepal. The coffee is handpicked, which provides employment to many women in rural areas.
Everest coffee buys from local farmers all across Nepal and they even train the farmers on coffee production. After collecting the coffee cherry, the coffee is hulled, sun dried, parchmented and so forth before it gets collected in Everest coffee collection centres. “After the collection, we process it in our factory where the green beans are again hand-checked for top quality. Then the beans are roasted to different levels of roasts – light roast, medium roast or dark roast.” Sumi Moktan from Everest coffee explains. The beans are then packaged and distributed. Most of the coffee from Everest coffee is exported to countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, El Salvador, USA etc. They also distribute domestically.
The coffee market is dynamic according to Sumi and every year the price of coffee changes with the fluctuations in the market. She further adds that Nepal is still learning about coffee culture. “I believe most of our domestic consumers do not actually have much knowledge about the taste of coffee. However, it is growing. The culture is growing and so is the market.” she says. “I have to mention though, that in Nepal people still go to cafes not for the coffee but for reasons like work, meetings etc. “ she adds.
Sumi is very positive about the future of coffee industry in Nepal. She adds that highland production coffees can’t beat the low land mass production. But if the consumers are knowledgeable, they certainly prefer the highland coffee like the ones grown in Nepal.
Alpine Coffee was started in 2008 by Kumud Singh and Rabindra Shrestha. These two young entrepreneurs with an investment of €30,000 started their first coffee plantation in Nuwakot in a plot of 5.5 hectares. Local farmers joined in and today they have built a successful business that spans the country.
Their own coffee estate produces plenty of coffee and they supplement their own production with coffee production from local farmers and cooperatives. In total, they support more than 500 coffee farmers by sourcing their production. Not only is their business profiting them, it is also supporting farming communities in many districts.
Within their farms they process their coffee using wet processing method. They roast their beans to different roast profiles and blends. Their coffee is distributed to most major cities in Nepal such as Kathmandu, Pokhara, Narayanghat, Birgunj, Butwal, Nepalgunj, Biratnagar, etc. They have also exported to The Netherlands and Denmark directly and to the United States through various sources. They sell their coffee under the name of Kathmandu Coffee.
Kumud from Alpine Coffee believes there is a lot of growth potential for coffee in Nepal. “There are vast areas all around Nepal that can be covered in coffee. The market is there and we have the production area and people. The challenge is to have more skilled manpower in growing coffee and more of a support system for small and larger farmers.” He says. He believes there needs to be a system for control of processing of coffee and a system to get the coffee to the processors and exporters. “Systems could be as simple as enforcement of contract and as complex as finding the correct coffee strain to grow or process.”
Coffee production and export will not only help farmers and entrepreneurs, it can contribute to job growth within the country and be a major source of foreign currency inflow. “Coffee could be a major export product from Nepal and it could contribute to a lot of jobs and lead to a growth in GDP for Nepal. If we can handle the challenges, we can go forward big time.” He says. And Alpine Coffee has every intention of being part of that phenomenon.
Beautiful Coffee Nepal
Beautiful Coffee Nepal (BeaCoN) is a coffee production company involved infarming, production, marketing and technical expertise; they have been involved in the coffee industry of Nepal since 2014. The organization is interested in improving the socio-economic condition of coffee farmers as well as institutionalizing collection, processing and marketing systems under the coffee producer’s cooperatives.
BeaCon is actively working in Gulmi and Sindhupalchowk district by introducing the Fair Trade concept to raise the quality of organic coffee and empower human resources to work more efficiently. It strategically works in each district by collaborating with Coffee Cooperative Union, Coffee stakeholders, I/NGOs and coffee traders.
Not only has this organization supported coffee farmers, it also participated in post-earthquake disaster work in Sindhupalchowk to help people recover from the physical and emotional damage. They provided the essential and immediate support to the farmers like living fund, vegetable seeds, solar lanterns, psychological support, and organizing village festivals to help heal the trauma.
Beautiful coffee has shown that not only is coffee good for waking up to in the morning, it can also be an agent of good for the people who grow it, process it and everyone associated with it.