Barista Treks Coffee to Remote Nepali Villages
Coffee isn’t just a good drink to me, coffee is art and science.” says Asmita, a barista at 514 Cafe. “ Making good coffee takes skill. You have to time everything just right to make the taste perfect. I am passionate about coffee because I have seen so much change in my own life since I started working with it and I want to bring this change to other’s lives as well.”
Asmita grew up in the city of Kathmandu, Nepal. She started working with coffee at the age of 19 when she was chosen to be a part of barista training at 514 Cafe. “I had no clue what I signed up to do,” she says about the beginning of her career “I didn’t even drink coffee and the only coffee I knew about was Nescafe instant coffee. It was a challenge to start making coffee a part of my daily life but I soon grew to love it.” She was trained as a barista by volunteer workers who had been working in the coffee world for over four years. Asmita says that she learned quickly from these people because they were so passionate about what they taught.
Most recently Asmita has been involved in a project that is taking the coffee business into remote villages. “ I was really nervous when I started out on my first trek.” she says, “ The people in the village spoke a different Nepali dialect then me so I was nervous to train them without being able to communicate with them very well.” With their coffee gear strapped to their backs, Asmita and her team trekked into a village that is completely surrounded by mountains. They started their first day of training in a house at the base of a mountain. “Nepalis are always late,” laughs Asmita, “so I was a little nervous when I started the training session and there were only two people there.” Presently a larger group joined and they were all eager to learn. The coffee training taught in the village is different from what you would learn in the city but it is still very high quality. The process taught was designed for villages with limited, to no electricity. In this process, beans are roasted in pans over the fire and ground in hand grinders. The grounds are then brewed in a french press or aero press. It costs 1000 rupees (approximately $10 USD) for the people in the villages to buy the equipment needed to start their own small-scale coffee shops.
The specific villages Asmita’s team targets are the ones located on the LangTang trail. There are many groups of people trekking through this region who are more than delighted to find a real cup of coffee along the way. One woman who recently bought the coffee equipment and now serves it in her tea shop can make around 700 rupees a day which is more than three times what she was making before. “I love teaching these people,” Says Asmita, “ I love watching them become passionate about coffee and catch a vision for a greater future in their village.”
“My dream is to someday start a coffee farm here in Nepal,” She says, “I want to have a place people can work and feel safe. A place people can learn and create.” In the past, middle-class people groups have been non-existent, but now due to small business ideas and emerging coffee culture there are more opportunities for individuals to have a middle-class wage. It only takes some committed training time and an espresso machine, or even a French press in a village to give someone a better chance in life. However, it is important to maintain the quality of the coffee being served in the cafes so people like Asmita are extremely valuable to this growing movement.
“We train people not only how to brew coffee,” Asmita explains, “but also what customer service looks like. There are many differences between Nepali customer service and Western customer service. I train people how to best serve both cultures because customer service is extremely important to running a successful business.” Asmita is pioneering a whole new era of business and art in Nepal. She says she used to dream of adventuring through the mountains and now she gets to do just that while spreading her love for coffee wherever she goes.