Have you ever tasted coffee from Nepal? Did you even know they grow coffee in Nepal in the first place? The answer to both of those questions is “no” from me, so I’m super excited to have this opportunity to share a Nepalese coffee with you by way of the excellent folks at Theodore’s Coffee Roasters in Owosso, Michigan!
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$30 $22.50/8oz (and free shipping just for signing in to the site!)
The Guardian article on Coffee in Nepal
THEODORE’S COFFEE ROASTERS LEKALI ESTATE NEPAL
Most of what I know about Nepal I learned from the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, so I’m not real dialed in to their agriculture and export practices, but I was totally unaware that coffee is a crop there. Apparently annual production is around 650 tons and coffee is grown in about 40 districts in the country. Nepalese growers produce mostly Typica and Caturra and everything is wet processed/washed. The story goes that a hermit named Mr. Hira Giri brought some coffee to Nepal in 1938 from Burma and planted it, where it remained mostly unnoticed as a curiosity crop until the 1970’s.
Theodore’s Coffee states that the cost of doing business in Nepal is high with limited land, expensive labor, complicated logistics and an industry that is rebuilding after the devastating 2015 earthquake. This coffee comes from the Lekali Estate in the village of Bhirkune, located in the northern district of Nuwakot. The family uses a refractometer to measure the Brix level of each cherry before picking, and they wash this coffee themselves. It’s a mix of Caturra and Typica grown at 1300-1600masl. Theodore’s gives us flavor notes of, “Cocoa, tea, ginger, carrot, yam, blackberry” which is pretty exotic, to let’s get to it!
I used my standard 1:16 ratio of 28g of coffee to 450g of water in a notNeutral Gino dripper. I used a Handground grinder set to 3 and Third Wave Water in my brewing. My brew time was 3:30 not including the bloom. As with any new origin region I try, I always expect this insane, super-exotic coffee to whallop me over the head! LOL What I found in the bag was a beautifully medium-roasted bean that looked like it could come from anywhere, which makes since since these are very common varietals.
I am greeted with pleasant sweetness on my initial sip as well as medium-light body in the cup. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have pulled “carrot” out of this coffee as a descriptor on my own, mainly because I would just never expect it in coffee, but with that descriptor in mind, I can totally find it in the cup (yes, there are a dozen cognitive biases at play here, I acknowledge that)! There is a slightly vegetal character to the sweetness in the cup rather than the fruitiness that is associated with it in most cups. If you’ve ever juiced carrots you know they are pretty sweet and so it definitely works in this context. I get a little roastiness on the front end of the sip and some malic acidity (think apples) in the cup, but overall it leans more toward sweetness and the acidity brings some balance to the coffee rather than playing a big role in the flavor. With lots of retronasal tasting (agitate the coffee in your mouth with your tongue and exhale in short bursts… it’s why humans are great at tasting things and can’t smell things as well as dogs, for example, and vice versa) I can really pick up a lot of carrot character! Again, who knows what I would’ve called that note if left to my own devices, however with carrot in mind, it’s loud and proud in this coffee. That flavor note is sweet and a little vegetal/root-y. I don’t find blackberry in this cup but I do get some cherry notes in the second half of the sip. The finish is a tad astringent for me and it’s not unlike tea in that regard, and I also get a spiciness in the aftertaste. There is a hint of yam/sweet potato in the aftertaste, too. Again, I probably wouldn’t come up with that on my own, but as someone who eats lots of sweet potatoes, with that in mind I can defintiely see where Theodore’s came up with the descriptor.
I’m always pumped to try a coffee from someplace new, and this is as exotic a coffee as I’ve had since trying a bunch of Yemeni coffees last year. There are some unusual, but still very tasty, flavor notes in this coffee, especially that carrot, and it’s a nice, clean, balanced cup. It’s a little dry on the finish due to a touch of astringency, but it’s a minor flaw and it doesn’t really detract from the cup for me at all. Because of the rarity of Nepalese coffee in the USA this is a relatively pricey coffee at $22.50 (on sale from $30) for 8 ounces, but in the same respect, we saw Americans buying Yemeni coffee a couple years ago for $20+/cup and people here go absolutely bonkers for Geishas that will set them back $70+ for a handful of ounces! In this case, you’re paying a little extra to support a village in Nepal that is trying to up its standard of living and you’re doing so with the added benefit of getting to taste a nice coffee from a part of the world where we almost never see coffee from. Go for it!