Himalayan Java coffee shop

cosy seating area

cosy seating area

cappuccino

cappuccino

A Nepalese friend had asked, have you visited the Nepalese coffee shop?

I replied no, I did not know there was one.

She told me me where to find it.

I then had to make several visits, as it was always closed.

One day I found it open, a man who seemed to know nothing about coffee, but then he did not seem to understand English either.

Another visit, and I found a young Nepalese guy, who seemed to be running it. He was quite helpful. As they were closing, we had a long chat, he said come back when they were open. He told me they closed at five o’clock.

Today, I find them open, but even then I thought they were closed. It looked very dark, either they have tinted windows or very dull lights. Maybe both.

I tried a cappuccino. It was not good, very bitter, though not as bad as coffee at Costa, to be worse they would have to be serving ditch water.

Why it was unpleasantly bitter, I do not know. Too many factors:

  • poor quality coffee
  • roasted at too high a temperature
  • prepared too hot
  • lack of skill of barista

The coffee is grown in Nepal at high altitude. Not a country associated with coffee. If it is sustainable, fair trade, then provides an income for a very poor country, stabilises the mountainsides. If cutting down trees for coffee then very bad.

It would also be worrying if farmers were being persuaded into growing cash cops rather than food crops. Grow food, then an extra cash crop. Grow cash crops and you are not in control, you are dragged into the cash economy from sustainable agriculture, at the whim of world markets over which you have no control. That it is government agencies promoting coffee growing, as get rich schemes, should sound alarm bells.

Nepal now has 1,700 hectares of coffee plantation, more than 10 times the area 20 years ago, when coffee cultivation started picking up. Coffee is now being cultivated in 25 districts in the country and last year, Nepal exported about 400 tonnes of coffee beans, 30 times what was produced two decades ago.

In the Himalayas, heavy precipitation during the winter falls as snow. It is slowly released during the spring and summer as glaciers melt. If, as is happening, the glaciers melt, flooding, landslides during the winter, drought during the summer.

Vietnam, not a traditional coffee growing country, was persuaded by the World Bank to grow coffee. Vietnam became the world’s second biggest grower of coffee (after Brazil) causing the world coffee price to collapse, leaving the Vietnamese farmers destitute. Vietnam, not a traditional coffee grower, was encouraged by the World Bank to grow coffee, with guaranteed contracts and prices. Ten years on, when Vietnam was ready to sell, there were no buyers. Vietnam flooded the market with coffee. Vietnam is now the second biggest producer after Brazil!

The coffee is roasted in Nepal, then airfreighted to UK.

If roasted, used within one week of roasting, optimum for next three weeks.

I noticed there were bags of coffee displayed on a shelf. I did not ask if they were for sale, or check roast dates.

The barista had been trained by someone who previously worked for Starbucks. Not exactly inspiring confidence. Also, unless she is working alongside skilled baristas, who will nurture, she will not improve.

The coffee is ground, then left. No, it should be freshly ground for each fresh coffee.

The coffee was served too hot (which may also in part explain the bitterness).

If using Harris + Hoole Guildford as a benchmark, then a very long way to go, let alone Jimmy Bean or Taylor St Baristas or Stokes on High Bridge.

But then this is Aldershot, they probably would not know quality coffee if it leapt up and hit them in the face.

Very tiny, a little cosy seating area, free wifi (which I did not try), fresh home made cakes (but no cookies which go with coffee), free out-of-date English and Nepalese newspapers (but please do not insult with the Sun).

The location is not good, in the entrance to a grotty shopping centre in a run-down street. Ok, everywhere in Aldershot run down, but the pedestrianised area better (though probably more expensive).

It shuts at five o’clock, which is quite early. In the summer needs to be open until six o’clock or even seven o’clock.

Potentially could be a pleasant little coffee shop, but for the location, and they have a long way to go to improve the quality of their coffee.

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