Coffee, kickstarting rural economies in Nepal

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 | 0 comments

Coffee country in NepalAt the moment I’m in Nepal, investigating the burgeoning coffee industry. I was involved with a Nepali coffee program 4-5 years back, helping with the country’s first shipments of coffee to the U.S. market (thanks to a generous buyer who was as interested in helping farmers here as he was in getting good coffee and developing a nascent export market). Now after helping out another high-end coffee company in the U.S. as they sought to learn about Nepali coffee, I’m back to see what has changed in the past few years. In between trekking in the Himalayas and riding elephants through the jungle, I’m meeting with coffee farmers in the Himalayan foothills. And a lot has changed, as it turns out.

More than 2,500 acres of coffee trees in Nepal are now certified organic. That’s not a lot, but it’s a big step in a great direction. The best of the country’s harvest is now selling for higher than market value in luxury Asian markets. About 70 to 80 percent of the crop here is washed coffee, which is generally more consistent and fruitier in flavor than you get from “natural” processing (in which the cherries are just laid out to dry in the sun). I’ve noticed there’s now a significant local market for coffee as well–even in the high Himalayas, I found trekkers sipping good Nepali coffee at more than one tea house. Next week I’ll be interviewing some farmers about their experiences, and from everything I’ve seen around the country so far, I expect to hear very good reports. The big questions that I hope to answer are whether that high value for the coffee is reaching the smallest farmers–and if so, what those farmers have been able to accomplish with it.

Regardless, I’m willing to bet that in answer to this insightful article in the NY Times Magazine last week, I will say, “Yes!”

More on this a little later…

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