After 240 years of absolute monarchy, Nepal has ousted its royal autocrat and declared itself a republic, thus condemning themselves to an altogether new sort of political strife: shifty-eyed scoundrels who’ve been elected to their highest office, rather than merely inheriting it.

Good on them.

Some words of advice as the Nepali people draw up a new constitution:

  • Habeus Corpus is a Good Idea.
  • Executive Orders are a Bad Idea.
  • Ban lobbyists from the get go. Trust me on this.

To mark the occasion, I’ve roasted up some Nepali coffee that I picked up at the recent SCAA expo. This is the first Himalayan coffee I’ve sampled, and I found some surprises along the way…

The Coffee

This green sample comes from Himalayan Java, and is described as organic, shade-grown on farms above 1100 meters, and fully wash-processed. I suspect at least two of these claims are overstated. The beans appear to be semi-washed, which isn’t a problem, really, nor is it unexpected; Nepal does not have a long history of wash processed coffee, and this may be about as washed as this coffee gets.

Further, the roast characteristics of the coffee really don’t jive with the 1100 meter claim. Mind you, I don’t doubt that there’s plenty of high ground to be found where the coffee’s sourced (c’mon, it’s in the frickin’ Himalayas!) but this just doesn’t roast-up like an especially dense bean, nor does it cup like one. (More on that in a moment.) I suspect the coffee is an amalgam of a number of farms, from a number of elevations, some likely quite high up, others much less so.

Perhaps most remarkable attribute of this coffee is its fragrance. Unroasted, the green coffee effuses jasmine and sweet tobacco notes. (Stunningly so. I actually stepped away from the roaster to track down my better half, and thrust a mess of green coffee in her face saying, “Here… smell this!” After being assured this wasn’t some kind of “pull my finger” trick she acquiesced, and agreed that the fragrance was qute remarkable, and would I mind if she might now finish the dishes, thank-you-very-much.)

Much of this aroma remains through the roast, muted somewhat, and muddied, too, by some subtle ashy notes, despite my applying the heat rather gingerly. In the cup were notes of chocolate, subtle spice (cardamom, in particular) and some rustic fruit and earth flavors, all wrapped in a fairly mild body, and with virtually no acidity at all (which — rightly or wrongly — I take to be another sign that this coffee wasn’t grown at particularly great altitude.) It cups, in short, much like an Indian Mysore, as much as any origin I’ve tasted.

All in all, an interesting bean, with some distinctive attributes (that aroma!) that with some nurturing, some winnowing and some care might make a name for itself some day.

Much like Nepal, itself, this coffee’s story is still being written.

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