Nepali Times
In one’s (coffee) cups


In this town, most social events are lubricated with alcohol. And we use the word 'event' broadly: everything from "but it's Wednesday" to "meet the head of a very large and important organisation", "let's brainstorm for this serious report" to "maybe this is a date or maybe I'm going to ditch you".

Nepali Times is calling for restraint. Because we're cunning and because we're familiar with the howls of protest ("what else is there to do"), we're giving you an alternative. No, not forming a book club, pressing flowers, or digitising your collection of 80s tapes, but the art of the coffee hour. Most of us are regular people who work six days a week, unlike the handful of habitu?s of the city coffeehouses, and cappuccino and cake is a ritual that too often falls by the wayside. Get back into the habit at any of these caf?s, all staff favourites. All but one serve proper espresso-based coffee drinks and desserts; some have excellent lunch and dinner menus too.

Saturday Caf?, Boudha:
This tranquil caf?, located in the shadow of the Boudha stupa, is the perfect place to de-stress and get away from it all. You don't even have to bring your own diversions-the second floor is stocked with novels, travel books and, given the location, the inevitable self-help books. The terrace is great for people- and stupa-watching over a cup of rich, freshly ground and brewed coffee. The tall glasses of iced coffee go down a treat on a summer's day.

Banana Cat Caf?, Pulchok:
The owners roast the coffee beans themselves at this caf? housed in an old mud building. The sandpit, swing, and resident cat make it perfect for an afternoon out with kids, while the other half of the languid garden is a good escape from said children. The two rooms are great for a quiet chat or read, or examining the jewellery, fabric, and pottery on sale. Don't be surprised if the names of the coffees don't quite match up to what you expect-a caf? au lait tastes just as good if called a latte. The desserts are unique, and the miles crepes and an-mitsu with ice-cream are much-loved.

La Dolce Vita, Thamel:
A great spot for discreet people-watching at Thamel's busiest intersection fuelled by what might be the most consistent coffee in town. Your macchiato or cappuccino will always taste the same at La Dolce Vita's low-key second floor lounge or lush rooftop. Other amusements include good tiramusi and watching the staff control their giggles when you order the 'chocolate mouse'.

Singma Food Court, Pulchok:
There's more than just delicious Malaysian and Singaporean food at this spacious restaurant. Singma has recently expanded its coffee menu to in include cappuccino, espresso, latte and mocha made with top quality Nepali-grown coffee beans or, for a higher price, Starbucks. There's always a wide selection of excellent desserts such as baked cheesecakes and a delicious old-fashioned trifle. The ambience may somewhat functional, but Singma's free wifi internet access more than makes up for it.

Caf? Mitra, Thamel:
Sometimes you just want to be left alone. Or you'd just rather no one saw you having coffee with a Certain Person. Caf? Mitra, which is packed to its little gills most evenings, is surprisingly quiet in the late afternoons, and the espresso here is excellent, hot, and strong. It's also a good cure for an attack of the mopes, with its stack of trashy, gossipy magazines in the funky loos.

La'Soon, Pulchok:
This is an elegant choice for a late-afternoon espresso. Consistency is never a problem, because La'Soon serves excellent Nespresso coffees that come in pre-tamped pods for use in the special machine. The garden is quiet and the interiors smart-casual (the looming boiler is an oddly soothing sight). The waitstaff are among the best in town, remembering your preferences without ever being intrusive.

Himalayan Java, Thamel:
You can get solitude amid the crowds at the always-packed Java. The intensity of the American-style acidic, bitter roast might take some getting used to (it holds up well in the flat white), but that doesn't really matter when you're mixing everything from peanut butter to raspberry syrup into your iced double mocha. The desserts are good for a sugar high-oversize cookies, brownies, and things best described with words like 'triple' and 'fudge', and the wireless internet is good, though not free.

Roadhouse Caf?s in Thamel, Pulchowk, Bhatbhateni:
The two newer branches of this favourite pizzeria are almost better coffeeshops than the original in Thamel. The earth tones and the shards of mirror and river stones embedded in the walls consciously transport you from away the bustle of the city. The friendly, efficient waitstaff are a bonus.


Dhokaima Caf?, Patan Dhoka:

The only coffee here comes in a French press, but since we find that infinitely preferable to drip coffee, Dhokaima's cosy bar and leafy, paved alfresco seating make the list. The bakery counter offers a selection of desserts including a popular rendition of black forest cake.

New Orleans in Thamel, Boudha:
It might not always be service with a smile at New Orleans, but the lattes are decent and the cake is served in very large portions. The wireless internet access is free in Thamel and costs Rs 200 a day in Boudha.

Illy Caf?, Thamel:
It's exciting to have a local franchise of Illy, the Italian coffee purveyor that is opening up new markets around the world by offering high quality, affordable shade-grown coffee. The caf? above Java in Thamel is a bit of a puzzle, though. It shares space with a Bose and Apple showroom and Photo Concern, and often directs customers to order from the Java menu. "But I want Illy coffee," you say. Sometimes you can get it.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)