Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to Nepal

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Welcome expatriates to the rich tapestry of coffee culture in Nepal, a country that's often overlooked when it comes to coffee. But with rich soil, favorable climates, and plenty of passionate coffee enthusiasts, Nepal's coffee scene is definitely one to discover. In this guide, we offer insights and tips for navigating the local coffee scene, ensuring you get the full Nepalese coffee experience.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

Before we delve into the coffee culture, it's essential to understand the origins and production of coffee in Nepal. Although coffee was introduced to Nepal in the late 19th century, it wasn't until the 1960s that large-scale coffee cultivation began. Today, Nepal cultivates a variety of coffee beans, including Arabica, Robusta, and Liberica.

Arabica beans are known for their mild flavor and low acid content, making them a popular choice for coffee connoisseurs worldwide. The hills of Dhankuta, Ilam, and Kalikot in Nepal's eastern region are renowned for their premium Arabica beans, which are often imported to other countries for blending. Meanwhile, Robusta beans are known for their bold and strong flavor, appealing to locals and tourists alike. Liberica beans, on the other hand, are a rarity with their unique smoky flavor. Grown primarily in the village of Ilam, Liberica beans have earned a reputation as a favourite among the well-traveled.

When it comes to coffee cultivation, Nepal is a late bloomer. In the 1960s, coffee plants were introduced to the country, and with the proper conditions, coffee plantations began to spread across the eastern and western regions. The high altitude, the right temperature, and the ideal rainfall make Nepal's coffee beans some of the best in the world. In fact, coffee production in Nepal has risen by over 25% in the last decade, with the country ranked as the 7th largest coffee producer in South Asia.

If you're eager to explore coffee plantations and learn more about the coffee production process in Nepal, there are plenty of opportunities for expats as well. The Annapurna Coffee Plantation in Myagdi, for instance, offers expat-friendly coffee tours, allowing them to witness the coffee beans from their origin to the cup.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

Now that you know the origins and production of coffee in Nepal, it's time to dive into the diverse array of coffee style drinks that have been cherished by locals for centuries. In Nepal, traditional brews and specialty blends are loved and deeply engrained in coffee culture. Here are some must-try coffee style drinks that will surely impress coffee lovers:

Arabic Coffee

Arabic coffee, also known as qahwah or gahwa, is a traditional coffee style drink that's popular in Nepal's villages. Made by boiling finely ground coffee beans in water, this Arabic coffee is sweet and heavily flavored, often served during ceremonial occasions, before meals, or with dates and sweets.

Nepal's Classic Espresso

Espresso is a staple coffee style drink worldwide, and in Nepal, its popularity has flourished in recent times. Although the taste and flavor of espresso might vary from place to place, Nepal's classic espresso can be found in most cafes, including those frequented by expats.

Cappuccino

Cappuccinos are a popular choice among Nepal's expat community due to their rich foam and bold flavor. Often served with a sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg, you can find delightful cappuccinos in many expat-friendly cafes.

Americano

The Americano, a popular coffee style drink across the globe, is a stark contrast to Nepal's traditional coffee style drinks. However, its rich flavor and efficient execution have undoubtedly earned it a spot in Nepal's coffee scene. If you prefer a milder flavor, the Americano is an excellent choice for you.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

Beyond coffee breeds and flavors, coffee culture in Nepal is heavily ingrained in its traditions and customs. At times, understanding these customs and traditions can be tricky for expats, but it's essential to learn and honor them to fully immerse yourself in Nepal's coffee culture.

Coffee as a Sign of Hospitality

Coffee is deeply ingrained in Nepal's hospitality culture. Sharing a cup of coffee is a sign of hospitality, respect, and friendship. It's common for locals to offer coffee to their guests, whether it's at their home, office, or a local cafe.

Coffee as a Welcome Drink

Serving coffee as a welcome drink is a common practice during cultural events and ceremonies, particularly when guests arrive early in the morning or late in the evening. Sometimes, coffee is followed by milk, tea, or local drinks as a sign of respect and hospitality.

Coffee as a Social Drink

Coffee is more than just a beverage in Nepal; it's a social drink that's deeply ingrained in social culture. It's pretty common for locals to socialize in coffee shops, cafes, and tea houses, enjoying their coffee drinks while catching up on the latest news and gossip. The coffee culture in Nepal is a breeding ground for building relationships, and it's no surprise that coffee shops in Nepal often double as social hotspots.

Coffee as a Ceremonial Drink

Coffee is revered in Nepal as a ceremonial drink, particularly during religious events and festivals. During ceremonies, coffee is often brewed and served as an offering to deities, and there are specific coffee rituals that have been passed down through generations. It's essential to respect and appreciate these religious customs and traditions, whether you're an expat or a local, and learning about these traditions can help you deepen your understanding and respect for Nepalese culture.

Additional Tips for Expats

Here are some additional tips for expats to fully immerse themselves in Nepal's coffee culture:

  • Try and discover locally grown coffee beans and blends, sometimes you might find some unique flavors that are exclusive to Nepal.
  • Visit local coffee shops and cafes frequented by expats and locals alike to witness the coffee culture firsthand.
  • Leave generous tips as a sign of hospitality and respect, remembering that tipping is customary in Nepal's coffee scene.
  • Learn about Nepalese customs and traditions surrounding coffee and social drinks to appreciate and honor them.
  • Try and adapt to local customs and preferences when it comes to coffee drinking, showing respect for Nepalese traditions and culture.
  • Celebrate Nepalese coffee culture by sharing your experiences with coffee and its traditions with your friends and family back home.

Top Recommendations for Expat-Friendly Coffee Shops and Cultural Experiences

Here are some expat-friendly coffee shops and cultural experiences that you might find enjoyable and thought-provoking:

  • The Caffeine: Located in Kathmandu, The Caffeine is an upscale coffee shop frequented by expats. With delicious coffee, comfortable seating, and a relaxed atmosphere, it's an ideal spot to unwind or catch up with friends or colleagues.
  • Cafe Paccosi: Situated in the scenic village of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Café Paccosi is a lively coffee shop that offers an immersive cultural experience. The café is known for its freshly roasted coffee, stunning views, and cultural performances, making it an excellent choice for expats seeking to engage with Nepal's rich cultural heritage.
  • Coffee Connoisseurs Workshop: For coffee enthusiasts, this Coffee Connoisseurs Workshop in Biratnagar is a rare treat. Here, expats can discover more about coffee brewing, bean selection, and roasting techniques, learning about the art and science of coffee making.
  • Coffee Adventures: Explore the coffee plantations of Nepal in a unique way with Coffee Adventures. This company provides guided coffee tours through Nepal's western and eastern regions, allowing expats to fully immerse themselves in Nepal's coffee culture.
  • Nepal's coffee culture also extends to new and innovative coffee shops and cafes, such as the revolving coffee shop in Pokhara, the elevated café in Ilam, and the cozy cafe in Chitwan. Expats would do well to explore these hidden gems to fully experience Nepal's rich and diverse coffee culture.

In conclusion, Nepal's vibrant coffee culture is a treasure trove for expats, offering a wealth of insights, traditions, and experiences. By following this guide, embracing Nepal's coffee culture, and engaging with its traditions, expats can fully immerse themselves in Nepalese culture. Remember to tip generously, adapt to local customs and preferences, and share your experiences with your friends and family back home. Nepal's rich coffee culture is a gift that needs to be celebrated, and expats have a unique opportunity to do so. Until next time, do stay caffeinated!