29 March-4 April 2013 #649

Bean there, done that

A new revolution is brewing in rural Nepal as farmers find a new cash crop
Sunir Pandey In Kavre,

Travelling north of Kathmandu along the Arniko Highway, it is hard to miss Yatiraj Timalsina’s coffee bar. It is on top of a newly built five-storey building on the side of a mountain, complete with seminar hall and rooms.

And as if to remind visitors that success, like good coffee, is not instant, Yatiraj and his wife Nirmala serve freshly brewed mugs of the world’s favourite beverage. Beans grown in Kavre, Nuwakot, Palpa, and Syangja are not just finding a growing market around the world, but Nepalis are increasingly developing a taste for good non-instant coffee.

For farmers like Yatiraj and his brother, Govinda, coffee has now replaced maize and vegetables as their principle cash crop. At first there was resistance from their own parents, but the two brothers persevered with their Arabica plantation and have become a model for other farmers in the region.

Their three acre farm on a hillside below Dhulikhel now has 2,000 coffee plants and the family earns up to Rs 800,000 a year from the coffee farm and the cafe. The Timalsina family’s newfound prosperity is spreading the wealth around too, because they buy 100 litres of milk from 22 neighbouring families to serve with their coffee and also for milkshakes. Families in Kavre can now afford to send their children to better schools.

A coffee plant bears fruit two years after planting, but it takes up to five to ten years for the plants to be commercially viable. Raw coffee cherries are picked in early March and are first wet-processed, then washed and left to dry. After their husks are removed, the green beans are roasted for 30 minutes (Nirmala, pic left) and then ground into fine, fresh coffee powder that sells at Rs 1,000 per kg.

The Timalsinas have not only won admirers but have also hit on a novel but simple business recipe: serve coffee during the cold seasons and lassi (milkshake) during the summer.

Because of the home-made do-it-yourself production and packaging methods, Timalsinas’ coffee harvest is not yet standardised for export. But Yatiraj, who is now a certified coffee trainer and pulping operator, says he wants to change the attitudes of Nepalis who still favour tea over coffee so that Nepali coffee farmers get encouraged by high domestic demand.

Says Yatiraj: “The real test for small-scale farmers like us will come if my children, when they grow up, feel they are too important to serve coffee to customers.” But for now, everyone from grandfather to grandchild in the Timalsina household is hooked to the bean that has made them prosperous.


Italian Alfonso Bialetti was watching his wife do laundry when he imagined the workings of the moka pot: boiling water in the lower chamber rushes up through a tight sieve containing coffee-grounds and then condenses in upper chamber. Voila, the Bialetti Moka Espresso was born.

**Fill the bottom with (preheated) water

**Fill basket with freshly ground coffee

**Place on heat

**Remove as soon as coffee gurgles, don’t boil

**Pour into thin (preheated) China clay cups


Coffee thrives from 800-1,500m where there is no frost in winter. The soil needs to be deep, fertile, and well drained with high organic content. Coffee is grown in 1,800 hectares in Nepal and total production was reported to be 523 metric tons last year. Annual production of beans across the country in metric ton is shown below on the map.

The coffee process, a photo gallery by Sunir Pandey