Nepal isn’t usually the first country that comes to mind when thinking about coffee. The towering Himalayan peaks, Mt. Everest, Buddhist monks and spiritualism, adventure...these are typically what the imagination conjures up when Nepal is mentioned.
Yet little by little, Nepal, and Himalayan coffee is slowly making ripples throughout the specialty coffee industry and becoming a rarity for aficionados. Nepal’s coffee history dates back to the 1930s and ever since, the landlocked Himalayan country has cultivated a coffee sector ripe for global markets.
So let’s take a quick look at Nepal’s unique coffee history, how Himalayan coffee has come to be highly sought after today, and what Nepal can look forward to as the key producer of Himalayan coffee.
Hira Giri Hauls Coffee Seeds to Nepal
Coffee first made its way to Nepal in 1938 via a Burmese Hermit, Hira Giri where the coffee seeds were planted in Nepal’s Gulmi District. Over roughly the next 40 years, farmers in Nepal cultivated coffee on a small scale and Himalayan coffee remained a curiosity crop.
Up through the 1970s and into the early 1980s, Himalayan coffee didn’t reach international markets for two reasons - first, Nepali farmers didn’t perceive coffee as a cash crop and second, because access to international markets was limited.
Nepal and Himalayan Coffee Hit the International Stage
By the mid 1980s, Nepal’s government began importing coffee seedlings from India and the production of Himalayan coffee slowly increased and could be found mostly in Europe. Little by little, as Nepali farmers gained more access to international markets, Himalayan coffee became seen as a cash crop. Locally however, the Himalayan coffee scene and culture took much longer to gain traction because Nepal still was predominately a tea drinking country.
By the early 2000s, domestic and foreign consumption of Himalayan coffee increased and Nepal assumed exporter status of a truly unique coffee that was grown in conditions unlike anywhere else in the world.
The Future of Himalayan Coffee and Coffee Culture in Nepal
Today coffee culture in Nepal is thriving and across the capital of Kathmandu, it's easy to stumble upon cafés that roast and serve farm fresh Himalayan coffee. In districts around the capital, small scale farmers and larger estates are honing their coffee cultivation skills to taking advantage of Nepal's rare coffee growing climate.
As the third wave of specialty coffee takes off and aficionados are looking for truly unique coffees, Nepal and Himalayan coffee in general are in position to offer a bean the world has yet to experience. Coffee also serves as a gateway for breaking social gender norms as more and more women work in the industry, thus increasing economic opportunities for thousands of families throughout Nepal.
So while you may not be familiar with Nepal as a coffee tourism destination, as an exporter of specialty coffee, or as a rare getaway to experience the mystique of the Himalayas, no need to worry - Himalayan coffee will soon be filling your morning cup.
If you’d like to learn more about coffee from Nepal, growing conditions in the Himalayas, or would like to try these rare coffees, be sure to check us out at www.himalayancoffees.com. We are one of the few suppliers of these rare Himalayan coffees in the U.S. and are also the exclusive U.S. distributor for Nepal's single largest coffee estate in Nepal, called Plantec Coffee Estate.