Though as yet unremarkable as a gourmet coffee, the Nepal region has the potential to produce a better product in years to come due to improved growing and processing methods. Better coordination through distributors and the supply chain is leading to more availability, but Nepal coffees are still fairly scarce in North America. Currently, only about 517 tons of coffee was produced in Nepal in 2015 according to the NPCA (Nepal Coffee Producers Assocation) – about 8600 x 60-kg bags. Roughly 50% of the coffee is consumed locally.
Most Nepalese coffee is grown by small farmers and higher returns are now incentivizing increased Arabica production. Nepal has areas where the terrain and climate are suitable coffee and there are also significant numbers of previously existing Arabica plants now being improved. This effort is being led by the Nepal Coffee Producers Assocation, which aims to unite the smallholders
Review: Tasting Notes of Nepalese Coffee
The coffee of Nepal has been described as rustic in the cup with a mild acidity. Increasingly a Semi-Washed Processing Method is used and advances are being made in the cultivation as well as the processing of the coffee beans to assure quality.
USAID investments in Nepal fostered a public-private alliance in an effort to increase production of specialty coffee. Private firms confident in Nepal’s coffee growing potential are making significant commitments to invest in Nepal coffee production and buy the coffee beans. While there are no Organic certified Nepalese coffees currently being marketed, most plantations in the region use organically grown methods of cultivating the coffees, including local manure and compost.
In the Nuwakot region, reviews have noted highly fruity flavors (cranberry, prunes, orange) in the coffees, with a creamy body and fruity, woody (cedar) aroma and apple-like acidity. The best Nepal coffees are High Grown with shade cover, allowing the beans time to mature and ripen, developing full and robust flavors.
Nepal Coffee Plant Varietals
Coffee plant varietals grown in Nepal are about sixty-five percent Bourbon and about twenty-five percent Typica with the rest being the Pacamara varietal.
Coffee was first grown in Nepal centuries ago but many coffee farms were devastated by the coffee rust disease and replaced with tea plantations, which has resulted in lower coffee exports and higher prices.
In Terai and Nepal’s hill regions coffee was replanted in the 1980s and began to thrive and produce significant income generating crops. Many mature coffee plants in Nepal were replaced with other crops in the late 1980s due to poor returns in part due to marketing difficulties.
Growing regions in Nepal include: Rukum, Baglung, Guimi, Palpa, Tana, Kaski, Gorkha, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Dhading, Sindhull and Ilam.
Also see: Best Coffees In the World
Resurgence of the Nepal Coffee Market
In recent years Nepal Coffee has been increasingly popular among expatriates and tourists leading to a surge in the domestic coffee market. Visitors to the region often return home from their trip, having experienced fresh roasted and brewed coffee for the first time and wishing to find fresh roasted Nepalese or Himalayan coffee back at home.
Himalayan Java grows the Caturra coffee plant varietal (an Arabica varietal) north of Kathmandu at about 2,300 feet above sea level at the foot of the Ganesh Himal mountain range where a frost-free valley in the northern belt of Nepal provides optimal coffee growing conditions.
The Plantec Coffee Estate in Kathmandu near the border with Tibet has more than 100 acres planted. The estate sun dries their coffee beans and exports them in bulk 50-kg bags.
At present, 1800 hectares produce roughly 517 tons of coffee, but Nepal has upwards of 11,000 hectares that can be committed to coffee farming, for a potential output of 3,200 tons (52,000 x 60-kg bags) at current yields. Their aim is to be producing 5,000 tons by 2020 through planting new farms and increasing yields per hectare with better farming practices.
Buying Nepal Coffees
Nepal coffee is difficult to source in the United States and Canada due to low imports by green coffee importers. Most of these single-origin coffee beans are bought and imported direct by specialty coffee roasters rather than brokers, who are looking to add a unique new flavor to their lineup. They’re typically featured as a single origin by a brand rather than roasted into a blend and unlabeled, due to the price.
This turns out to be a positive for anyone who wants to buy roasted coffee for home, as the specialty coffee roasters can roast coffee to order and have it shipped direct to them, guaranteeing freshness compared to off-the-shelf coffee. Coffee is a fresh product, meaning the longer you wait after roasting, the less flavor it has as it becomes more stale. Ideally, you’ll want to order whole bean Nepal coffee every 3-4 weeks, and grind it yourself.
Coffees bought off store shelves – especially pre-ground coffees in retail stores or through distribution facilities like Amazon – are often roasted weeks or even months before arriving at your door step, tasting stale and dull rather than the vibrant flavors from fresh roasted.
Nepal Coffee Brands
Most Nepalese coffees are sold through roasters, who get their supply from an importer that deals with an exporter in Nepal and aggregates the supply from local producers, and there are few (if any) North American brands dedicated to Nepal coffee roasting. Within Nepal itself however, a number of brands such as Mount Everest Organic Coffee Pvt. Ltd. and Buddha Organic Coffee Industry Pvt. Ltd. grow, roast and sell locally as well as online (shipping from Nepal – high costs) in a limited capacity.
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Green Coffee Production60kg bags
2016: 2,000 = 264,000 lbs
2015: 1,070 = 141,293 lbs
2014: 2,120 = 279,827 lbs
2013: 899 = 118,615 lbs
2012: 1,207 = 159,364 lbs
Green Coffee Exports60kg bags
2016: 0 = 0 lbs
2015: 1,070 = 141,240 lbs
2014: 2,120 = 279,840 lbs
2013: 900 = 118,800 lbs
2012: 1,210 = 159,720 lbs
Data may not be available for the most recent year.