A History in Nepalese Coffee

A History in Nepalese Coffee

In 1998, I was in Nepal. I was there because USAID offered me a free trip, provided I completed their mission.

The mission: to assess the coffee world in Nepal, from the farm to the cup. Nepal had some history in coffee production but it was in the distant past. Not much was known about Nepal’s coffee experience in 1998 – so they sent me to find out.

I was set down in a small city called Tenzen. I was housed in a small hotel in the foothills at about 5,000 feet above sea level. From my window I could see five 20,000 foot mountain peaks all lined up, covered in snow, and glowing golden in the late afternoon sun.

Nepalese Coffee Roasters

I soon found out how this trip came about; A local Nepalese coffee store owner who roasted his own coffee (selling to tourists and mountain climbers) had requested coffee information from the U.S. Government.

The question foremost on the mind of that local coffee roaster in Nepal was not how to build an industry that would benefit coffee farmers, but how to market his coffee to tourists. He was interested in helping himself, not growing the benefits of coffee for the many farmers who had coffee trees on their land. These farmers did not drink coffee, and had no ready market to sell into. I immediately re-organized my time and the people I needed to meet. I visited the farms and spoke with the coffee farmers. I soon discovered that my host, the Nepalese coffee roaster, was not liked by the farmers, because he paid very low prices for the coffee he purchased from them.

I got back to my USAID sponsors in the U.S. and told them they had been sold a bill of goods by a self-serving local businessman, and that I could not narrow my study to “How to develop a coffee roasting industry in Nepal” in good conscience. The potential was minimal, and very few would be helped with this mission. Those helped would be the educated middle class, not the poorer coffee farmers, who numbered in the thousands.

Word got back to my host and he was furious. This is not a good thing to happen to someone in a foreign country in the 90’s, where anyone could disappear in some back alley in Kathmandu, or under twenty feet of snow on some nearby mountainside. But I persevered. I decided (since I was already there) to teach the coffee farmers how to prepare coffee cherries for home roasting in a wok. I figured once they knew how to prepare coffee for consumption, they would have the basis for growing coffee for flavor. The idea was that knowledge would open up doors to export coffee, and bring in more money for their families in the future.

Nepalese Coffee Farmers

When I travel to a country to teach coffee to coffee farmers, I always bring green coffee samples from five or six countries to show farmers how the final product looks. It is important to know what green coffee looks like after the seeds are removed from the cherry, perfectly sorted, graded, and then processed for export. I want them to see what they are aiming toward. I also bring a small popcorn popper (110V) to roast the coffee samples if there is electricity available. In this mountain village there was none, so we rested a wok on three round stones over a bamboo wood fire.

This was a great teachable moment. In an open wok, you can see the changes as they come about. We sat around the fire, stirring the beans with a long stick. The heat from a bamboo fire is hot, very hot. As the coffee turned from tan to a dark oily black, I took small portions from the wok and allowed them to cool in a cool metal pie tin. After 15 minutes of wok-stirred coffee beans, we had all seen the changes and we had four separate samples to taste: 

So we began by harvesting five pounds of their local coffee cherries. In the process of harvesting I taught the importance of “Red Ripe.” We de-pulped the cherries by hand (squeezing each cherry until the wet and slimy seeds popped out. Then we set the seeds out to dry on newspaper in the shade. It took five days to get the coffee beans to dry. They start out at about 50% moisture to about 25% moisture, and they need to be at around 11% to begin to roast. The weather was not cooperating, so I finished the drying in a wok over a low flame for a few hours. Then we let the seeds rest overnight.

Now we had Nepal samples and the roasted samples I brought from Mexico, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Comparison tasting is a good way for novices to get an idea of their own coffee as it might fare in the export market against the quality of other coffees. In addition, we had the four different roast colors which I wanted to use to show them how they could get different flavors from the same beans.

My next week was spent teaching the principles of coffee roasting and coffee tasting . “If you don’t know what you are aiming at, you can’t hit the target,” I told them. So we spent time tasting and identifying flavors.

It should be noted that the Nepalese are tea drinkers, and chai is their drink of choice. So when I was asked how coffee was prepared in other countries, I told them it was a medium for carrying flavors. In the U.S. we used primarily milk and sugar, but in other countries coffee drinkers added other spices. I encouraged them to prepare coffee however they would enjoy it, and that is what they did. Coffee/Chai formulas were the order of the day, for the next week. Every family made their own version of coffee, and they were all different and delightful. Nothing I have tasted since has come close.

I wrote my report for USAID and sent it in (this was the 90’s, pre-email) and left Nepal via Kathmandu to Bangkok, and then to San Francisco. I left behind 200 farmers who had gained knowledge in roasting and tasting, but had no infrastructure to organize anything. My mandate was to assess the situation and my report gave a clear assessment: build the coffee agriculture in Nepal, and let the roasting trade find its own way. Help the farmers was my message.

It has been two decades since my report was sent off to USAID. I believed I had failed to create what the farmers needed, but I was wrong!

Life goes on and you can’t discount the power of knowledge and education.

2017: Thanksgiving Coffee and Nepal

On Apr 5, 2017, almost twenty years later, I received this e mail from Mike at HimalayanArabica Nepal Coffee:

Hi Thanksgiving Coffee,

I found your company through Greenpages Org as we are also going through the application process and I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to you to again.

HimalayanArabica believes in organic and ethical way of doing business and everyone along the supply chain from crop to cup can all benefit from doing business the right way.

Please give our coffee a try and you can get a free sample by simply emailing me your address and a phone number for the DHL packet.

I hope to hear from you soon and thank you for your time.

Kind regards,

Below is a shot of our Roastmaster Jacob Long on the left, posting with the same sack of Nepal Coffee as Michael Bowen, from HimalayanArabica on the right.

Nepal Coffee

I replied on Tue, Apr 11, 2017


This e mail was very nice to receive,

In 2001 I was sent to Nepal by USAID to evaluate the Nepalese Coffee situation.

I was part of a team of two. We were asked to come by a man who wanted to develop the tourist trade for roasted coffee in Nepal. My report stated my opposition to this plan as it would not have created a coffee industry , but only one or two farms to provide him with coffee to roast and to sell in Katmandu. I recommended the development of the cultivation of coffee so that many could benefit.

I am happy to see and know that my vision was clear and that in fact, aid and market forces (and Nepalese common sense) made the right situation happen and now 16 years later someone is offering me coffee from Nepal that I can roast and market.

For starters, who in the US is your importer that will handle the coffee ?

What is the availability and shipping date?

How many sacks are available?

What quality do you have ?

Has the coffee been cupped and scored by Q graders or would you venture a guess as to its quality?

Who is roasting coffee from Nepal now?

Send samples to Thanksgiving Coffee Company:

PO Box 1918
19100 South Harbor Drive
Ft. Bragg, CA 95437

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I am very interested and that is an understatement.

Paul Katzeff

Mike replied:

Hi Paul,

Thank you so much for your reply, it was very educational and got to understand a little piece of history of coffee here in Nepal. My name is Michael Bowen and I am a Korean-American grew up in Wisconsin. I spent some time in Korea and realized I wanted to do something else and somehow, almost magically, I came to live and work in Nepal and was given this fantastic opportunity to work with a company that has the same vision as I do, which is organic, ethical, sustainable and quality.

Raj, the owner, has been working tirelessly for more than 10 years to develop the farms in order for them to move towards the specialty market. Nothing is all set nor perfect here, but we are moving in the right direction.

Even though I have only come into the scene for a little more than a year, I can see that there is a lot of potential here which you undoubtedly saw 16 years ago.

Regarding your questions:

We do not have a dedicated US importer, at the moment.

There is about 8 tons available for shipment as soon as money is received and another 8-16 tons can be made available of the same quality from a different Life goes on.

Paul Katzeff
Mendocino, California

Order your own bag of Nepal Coffee now.

Rich and velvety with underlying hints of raisin.


Leaf rust resistant variety in Honduras succumbs to pest

World Coffee Research has confirmed that a coffee variety in Honduras, widely planted across the country because of its resistance to coffee leaf rust, is no longer resistant to the disease.

The variety, Lempira, makes up a significant portion of Honduran coffee production and has been widely planted since an epidemic of leaf rust hit Central America beginning in 2012. A delegation of exports has informed the minister of agriculture of Honduras of the new development.

The Honduran national coffee institute, Instituto Hondureño del Café (IHCAFE) received reports of rust infections on Lempira plants in January 2017.

One early hypothesis was that the plants thought to be Lempira were in fact another, susceptible, variety.

World Coffee was informed and offered to conduct DNA fingerprinting to confirm the variety of the plants. Samples of leaves were collected from two locations – a heavily infected farm in the eastern part of the country, as well as “mother” plants for the Lempira variety maintained by IHCAFE. The tests were positive, confirming that Lempira is indeed now susceptible to rust.

According to IHCAFE, as of April 2017, the incidence level of rust nationally was only 6 per cent (below the level of economic damage). However, 18 per cent of Lempira farms surveyed in March had an incidence level higher than 10 per cent.

IHCAFE is alerting farmers of the possible development of a severe attack once the rains are established.

There are two possibilities to explain why Lempira is showing vulnerability to rust.

One is that a known rust race traditionally present in Honduras may have mutated and overcome Lempira’s resistance. It is also possible that a race of rust not previously present in the country has moved into the region.

Researchers and breeders have been concerned for years about both possible scenairos emerging in Central America.

It is well known that there are dozens of rust races that affect coffee globally, only a small number of which have presented significant production challenges to coffee production in Central America. Historically, the predominant races in Central America have been races I and II. It’s possible that a race of rust for which

Lempira was never resistant has now moved into the region.

There is no rust-resistant variety that is resistant to all races of rust.

Samples of rust spores collected at infected sites have been sent to a research center in Portugal for identification, but results are not expected until August 2017.

World Coffee Research is checking sites in its 24-country International Multilocation Variety Trial to determine if Lempira is affected in countries other than Honduras. The global trial was established in 2014 in part as a monitoring system for the movement of diseases and pests in coffee production zones around the world.  Prior to the establishment of the program, there was no global monitoring system for coffee disease and pest movement.

Since its inception in 2012, World Coffee Research has established numerous programs to address the fragile nature of resistance to coffee leaf rust in the region—including a regional breeding program that includes the creation of new interspecific hybrids, guidance for coffee technicians and farmers for comprehensive agronomic approaches for the management of rust, a program to ensure the quality and genetic purity of seeds and seedlings sold to farmers, and a global effort to safeguard coffee genetic resources that breeders will need to tap to ensure greater genetic diversity for the crop.

At the end of May, World Coffee Research will convene with experts from across the region, immediately preceding the World Coffee Science Summit in San Salvador, to design a regional and global action plan.

Source : Prime Creative Media Pty Ltd. (2017, May 18). Leaf rust resistant variety in Honduras succumbs to pest. Retrieved from Global Coffee Report:  http://gcrmag.com/news/article/leaf-rust-resistant-variety-in-honduras-succumbs-to-pest

Coffee may improve mood: study

An examination of the effects of coffee on peoples’ moods have found that it may have an overall positive effect.

The review of existing research into the matter was completed by Dr Géraldine Coppin from the University of Geneva and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences and published by the industry-sponsored Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee.

“Current research into this area suggests some interesting findings, not only within a healthy population, but also in subjects with depression,” Coppin writes.

According to Coppin’s review: “Research has suggested that the repeated intake of 75 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of approximately one cup of coffee) every four hours confirmed a pattern of sustained improvement of mood over the day. Low to moderate doses of caffeine (around two to five cups of coffee per day) might improve hedonic tone (the degree of pleasantness or unpleasantness associated with a given state) and reduce anxiety.”

It’s not all good news though, as high doses “could increase tension, nervousness, anxiety, and jitteriness,” Coppin writes. “Extensive research on caffeine intake has been associated with a range of reversible physiological effects at both lower and higher levels of intake, suggesting that caffeine intake has no significant or lasting effect on physiological health.”

Interestingly, Coppin also writes that:” Research suggests that caffeine can help limit depression and improve alertness and attention5. For example, a 2016 meta-analysis accounting for a total of 346,913 individuals and 8,146 cases of depression considered a dose-response analysis and saw a J-shaped curve, with the beneficial effect reported for up to approximately 300 milligrams caffeine (the equivalent of approximately four cups of coffee) per day.”

Coppin is a senior researcher and lecturer in affective psychology at the University of Geneva and at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, where she studies the psychology and neurosciences of chemosensory perception and food intake. Her research includes the investigation of behavioural and neural correlates of food preferences and choices in healthy individuals as well as in clinical populations.

Global Coffee Report. (2017, May 12). Coffee may improve mood: study. Retrieved from Global Coffee Report: http://gcrmag.com/news/article/coffee-may-improve-mood-study

Is the future of coffee clear?

A new coffee product has hit the market and while it’s not clear whether it will take off, there is at least one thing that is clear about it: the product itself.

The brainchild of Slovakian brothers David and Adam Nagy, CLR CFF is the world’s first colourless coffee.

Made as a ready-to-drink product, the clear coffee is made from Arabica beans, but processed in such a way as to remove all of its colour.

The product has been launched in London, and purports to allow coffee drinkers to enjoy their favourite beverage all day without the risk of staining their teeth.

The drink does not contain preservatives, artificial flavours, stabilizers, sugar or any other sweeteners – just coffee and water.

Global Coffee Report. (2017, May 4). Retrieved from Global Coffee Report: http://gcrmag.com/news/article/is-the-future-of-coffee-clear

Four cups per day is safe: study

Research by the International Life Sciences Institute has found that it is safe for adults to drink up to four cups of coffee per day.

The findings, which were published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, showed that people could safely consume about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.

The research found that the safe levels for pregnant women are slightly less – about three cups, or 300 milligrams of caffeine per day.

The findings come from a review of more than 700 studies of caffeine and its effects that were conducted between 2001 and 2015.

Global Coffee Report. (2017, May 4). Four cups per day is safe: study. Retrieved from Global Coffee Report: http://gcrmag.com/news/article/four-cups-per-day-is-safe-study

Myanmar coffee competition yields exciting results

The winning coffee at the Third Annual Myanmar Coffee Association (MCA) Coffee Quality Competition scored a record-breaking 89.58 points, underscoring the continuing improvement in the quality of coffees being produced in the Asian nation.
The Ywangan micro-lot entered by MCA member Mandalay Coffee Group bested last year’s winner of the event by more than two points on the Specialty Coffee Association scoresheet.
It was both the top-scoring dry natural process category coffee and the overall winner of the competition. Judges described the coffee as “clean and complex,” with the flavours of “orange, lemon, strawberry and red currant.”
The quality of coffees entered rose across the board for a second straight year, with 26 of 72 coffees achieving 85-points or better on a 100-point scale.
The majority of those achieving 85-points were dry natural processed coffees produced by smallholder community farmers.
The competition is a project of the USAID-funded Value Chains for Rural Development project, implemented by Winrock International, and organised by the Myanmar Coffee Association and Coffee Quality Institute (CQI). It was hosted at the Shwe Danu and Value
Chains project office and coffee lab in Ywangan town, Shan State.
A preliminary screening by national cuppers was held 23-28 February with qualifying coffees advancing to an international round of judging 1-5 March.
Three international judges and five resident national cuppers assessed the coffee samples using SCA cupping protocols and a competition format established by the Coffee Quality Institute. The national cupping team was led by Charlie Habegger of Blue Bottle Coffee (USA). The international team was led by head judge Dr. Sunalini Menon of Coffee Lab International (India), with Raw Material Coffee co-founder Richard Corney (New Zealand), and Sustainable Harvest Relationship Manager Dane Loraas (USA) as judges.
Top-scoring samples from the competition and others from participating communities will be on-hand to taste at the London Coffee Festival, 6-9 April, and the SCA Global Coffee Expo in Seattle on Saturday, April 22nd from 3:45p until 5:30p in the Cupping Exchange area, room #618.
Myanmar’s community coffee farmers are supported through the Value Chains project, which links smallholder farmers with competitive commercial value chains to increase agricultural productivity and promote inclusive agricultural growth. The project, implemented by Winrock International, employs a “people-to-people” approach to increase smallholder agriculture income. CQI is working on behalf of the project to improve coffee quality and productivity in Myanmar. 

Source: GlobalCoffeeReport