Machapuchre View Organic Coffee :: Palpa, Nepal

29 Feb

I just returned from the most amazing trip to Nepal. The majority of the trip was spent exploring the hills and town of Palpa. We were hosted by the undeniable Man Mohan and his friend Navin who is currently working in Kathmandu but was in Palpa doing research for his website.

One of the places Navin wanted to visit was the local organic coffee farm on the other side of the hills from Tansen. Man Mohan lives and works in Palpa as an economics professor at the local college as well as runs a home stay and is the creator of GETUP tourist information for Tansen.. He had not yet been to the coffee farm and was excited to see it for himself. He invited us along on the adventure to see and taste the local brew.

Our morning started off chilly at 7am when we all met for our breakfast and tea at a local shop down the street from the home stay. Following our meal was a small trek up to the top of the hill where Tansen is situated and descended down the other side. The walk took us about an hour and upon arrived the sun was starting to peek over the hills, warming us and the countryside.

A Nepali man dressed in layered cloth greeted us along the trail and was followed by a herd of timid local children. He lead us down to his home which also double as the coffee farm. We were first taken to where the coffee plants were growing back
behind the house. There couldn’t have been more than ten or so, but they all bore beautiful, glossy, red coffee cherries. It takes four to five years of growth before a coffee plant can produce fruit. When it matures, the plant produces flowers around May and
begins to grow fruit in August or September. The fruit grows through the winter and is ready for harvest in mid February. The process from flower to fruit takes approximately eight months so we were quite lucky to see the farm during harvest season.

Coffee plants can live and produce fruit for 60 years or more.

Once the berry is picked, it gets placed into this machine which peels off the the soft outer layer of the fruit and exposes the greasy bean inside. The beans are then stored in an airtight container to ferment for 24 hours. The fermented beans are placed in
a staining bucket and rinsed with clean water and left out to dry in the Nepali sun for about two days or until the beans are dry. Simple enough.

The dried beans must be peeled once more before they are ready to roast. This time only a thin clear layer is removed to reveal the bare bean before it is thrown into the roaster.

At this point we left the house and walked up a dirt path, passed the buffalo and chicken coop, through the vegetable farm, and out to the roasting, grinding and storing area. At this point, the timid children were practically plowing us over to get into the grinding
room before us.

I expected a huge machine like the one I had seen in the Cafe Vita roasting house located in Seattle. Instead we ducked through a small door into a tiny room where the simple yet effective roaster stood ready for the next batch.

Nepal relies on hydroelectric energy to power the country. Since this time of the year is the dry season, the country experiences about 19 hour daily power cuts. Many shops use generators to keep their businesses running and restaurants rely on gas stoves and cooking over a fire. Where the coffee is roasted, there is no power at all, so the roaster is powered purely by human energy.

The beans are poured into the hand crank roaster where they fall into a rotating
cylindrical compartment. A fire is lit inside the machine and the beans are rotated constantly as the heat creeps up to 150-155 degrees Celsius. The toasty beans roast for half an hour at the desired heat which determines whether the farmer is producing a
medium or strong roast. 150 degrees Celsius is for a medium roast, and 155 degrees Celsius will produce a stronger roast.

Once the beans have roasted for the appropriate amount of time, they spill into the spinner where they cool and eventually drop into a bucket to be ground. The hand crank roaster produces 1.5 kg every half hour and they roast approximately 1,000kg a year.

We got to feel, smell, and taste freshly roasted beans. I can honestly say it was better than chocolate. After working with a fair trade coffee company back in the states, it was an honor to see a local Nepali farmer grow, roast, and brew all on the same plot of land. Machapuchre View Organic Coffee distributes mainly to cities in Nepal, Kathmandu being the biggest demand. To top it all off, we each got a cup of freshly picked, freshly roasted, and freshly brewed organic coffee right off the foot hills of the Himalayas.

I bought a bag of freshly roasted and ground coffee for 70 Nepali Rupee which comes out to just under a dollar. Not a bad day.

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