kar.ma coffee: Inspired Brews and Connected Living | Veneeta Singha

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kar.ma coffee: Inspired Brews and Connected Living - In Conversation With Birgit Lienhart-Gyawali

1) How did the idea and concept of kar.ma coffee come about?
"I was working as Tourism Advisor for SNV and was lucky to have travelled to many remote areas in Nepal and Ghana. I was fascinated by resource use in local communities - they created something beautiful out of nothing. In Ghana, I met a furniture artist who was equally inspirational. I enjoyed drinking coffee and a friend once suggested that I get more involved in the sumptuous reality that is coffee today. I then met coffee farmers in Nepal and observed and learnt how coffee is grown as well as the processes involved in the ‘farm to table life cycle’.
Nepal is my home and I was interested in offering Nepali coffee to support our coffee producers and the coffee grown here. My initial idea was to invite people to connect with coffee and started with just two benches here at the Gyan Mandala Complex. People stopped by and appreciated the idea which gave me the much needed impetus. I had no business plan but I did not want to charge any specific amount for the coffee as I wanted everyone to get to know and enjoy pure Nepali coffee - people should pay what they think it is worth. And, thus, the concept of kar.ma coffee was born."
2) How did the earthy and beautiful spatial design and interiors take shape?
"A friend of mine in Austria uses shavings of a very special wood for making all types of accessories. He inspired me. As Tourism Advisor, my work involved developing destinations. My vision was to make kar.ma coffee a ‘coffee destination’ - offering a unique coffee experience for all the senses. I planned the space as an amalgamation of art, handicrafts, innovation, connection and keeping in mind our coffee farmers. Involving the bottom of the supply and production chain is important to me and my work at kar.ma coffee. We make sure that machines are not used in any of the coffee production processes. Additionally, we stress on recycling and of coffee, in particular. Since the response is very positive, we have also added upcycled furniture made with bicycle parts.
I have worked on interior spaces at the Himalayan Java in Mandala Street and the Peacock Guesthouse in Bhaktapur. We work on orders of individual pieces for people who love this sort of minimalistic and earthy furniture. I like to provoke the imagination and raise awareness of eco-practices and products that hold an eco-consciousness with regard to resource use. Our recycled furniture line is quite expensive but high value for money and unique. We also initiated a monthly 2nd Hand Market together with Moksh, – a Flea Market that contributes to an awareness among people that used goods can be treasures not trash. It has started to boom and it is nice to see that both Nepali people and Expatriates enjoy the bohemian flair and the hunt for a unique piece for the wardrobe or home.


The kar.ma coffee space itself is designed as a "hangout," away from the conventional café scene. I love art and music - artists from the area began to showcase pieces from their work here. We recently held a Lamp Installation Exhibition ‘Light up your life’ in cooperation with !NS!GHT LIVING owned by Dang,  a Thai designer. Now all the items are for sale. The idea is that whatever you find in our place can be bought and ordered while enjoying a good cup. This is a hub for contemporary arts and for local resources. I want to surprise and offer something new. Our line of coffee beauty products is an integral part of this ethos." 

3) What are the key links in the kar.ma coffee value chain?
"The concept of the ‘brew’ at kar.ma coffee surrounds and imbibes from the entire coffee production sector. I stress on pure beans which are of the best quality available in Nepal with a fine aroma. According to the green bean expert at Toby’s Coffee Estate in New York, our beans taste like chocolate, caramel, malt and earthy. The coffee beans grow on trees in the Mid-hills of Nepal. The essential processes involved include plucking the cherry, removing the fruit flesh, washing the slime from the bean inside, drying it and taking the hard skin off after drying. The green bean turns into the ready-to-use black coffee bean after it is roasted. Coffee making is an art.

There are different methods of brewing. I use ‘the filter method’ or ‘pour over’ wherein the water drips through the filter. Our beans are sourced from small cooperatives run by small-scale farmers in Nepal. There are some coffee estates emerging as well. The farmers drop the beans at a Collection Centre. The full cherries are then processed. The coffee processing lifecycle comprises at least ten key functions and elements. Currently, we roast our beans at the Himalayan Java as a big roaster is quite an investment but we have plans to do our own roasting in the future. My best marketing stimulus is the fact that people love the concept and the coffee."
4) What are the coffee flavors and types that kar.ma coffee offers?
"We offer 100 percent Arabica Coffee at  kar.ma coffee. There are two coffee types – Arabica and Robusta; our variety is pure Bourbon and Bourbon mixed with Red and Yellow Cattura. Coffee requires essential weather and climatic conditions. Altitudes of 900 m to 1800 m are best suited for good coffee. The trees grow best in half shade amongst nut trees and citrus trees. The ideal harvest period is from November to March. A new and emerging trend is to extract tea from the green beans which is extremely healthy. I sit with the coffee farmers to set the price and profit benefits for them. I hold our relationships with our farmers very high and believe in nurturing the collaboration. kar.ma coffee must be beneficial to them too. We do not use fertilizers and help with some of their challenges such as technology and know-how."

Position: Writer

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