Meet barista Kushal singh Bist. When talking about Nepal most of us probably think of Mount Everest, high mountain climbing, and amazing nature. Some of us would note that it is actually home to 8 out of the world’s 10 highest peaks; or even that Nepal is one of the fastest-growing economies globally. Perhaps very few of us, who don’t live around Kathmandu, would associate this part of the world with coffee culture.
Kushal singh Bist, a barista of Nepalese origin who recently relocated to Dubai, admits that he was hardly aware of coffee up to 5 years ago. His coffee adventure started by chance while working at a bar in Saudi Arabia.
“Once a colleague of mine – a very talented barista – treated me with a delicious cup of coffee. I remember it was sweet, soft and aromatic. He taught me many beautiful things about coffee I’d never heard of before. This has awakened my interest to learn more about coffee. I still remember it as a moment of my coffee enlightenment.”
No surprise about this confession. In fact, coffee was first introduced to Nepal only in the middle of the 20th century. Besides, the part of the world where Kushal grew up has been and still is a “tea-drinking” one, by tradition.
“People drink tea at home, but while dining out, they usually go for coffee. The mushrooming number of coffee shops — an estimated 500 in the capital [in 2018]— points to a burgeoning market” says Nima Tenzing Sherpa – specialty coffee grower and Lekali Coffee Estate co-founder from Kathmandu.
However, at the moment Kushal singh Bist, like many others from the Nepali coffee generation, tries to promote Himalayan coffee, while working and learning abroad. He reads and watches coffee online resources after hours and attends barista trainings from SCA UAE champions like Nipendra Maharjan. But the way of exploring the coffee world he likes the most is visiting other coffee shops and events.
“Coming to UAE became a blessing in this sense. Visiting different cafes and talking to other baristas is a habit for me now. It motivates me to explore more and learn more rigorously. Although many times coffee life has made me smile and given me goosebumps, one of the best moments I recall was a latte art throwdown. I was feeling proud sharing time and space with hundreds of talented people with the same passion.”
Kushal works as a head barista at ByThru Cafe in Dubai. He’s been leaving in UAE for 4 years now. In a few years, he would like to come back to Nepal to open his own coffee shop serving coffee from all around the world.
“I’d like to start bringing something new to the game also by introducing people to this unique delicacy of coffee from the beans of Nepal, where I come from. The mineral-rich soil from these areas produces coffee wonderfully aromatic and remarkable in taste”.
While even for the most advanced coffee geeks Himalayan origin coffee might still be something unique and exotic, the fact is that “during the past 20 years, the [coffee] sector [in Nepal] has seen tremendous growth”. This is true not only for producers but also for the entire Nepali coffee community. And this is what Kushal singh Bist seems to be most excited about.
“We have a lively community in UAE around Specialty Coffee Nepal. It is a great support to all members, but especially to new baristas. They try to create a common platform not only for sharing knowledge and experience but where people have the opportunity to meet in person.”
Empowering the upcoming generation of baristas is also a goal Kushal set for himself for the next years. He believes working with coffee can really change a person.
“In the early days of my coffee path it was very difficult for me to understand that every method of making coffee requires a set of skills and patience. Coffee has changed my personality and has made me a responsible and disciplined person. My vision for my success is clear now. Seeing people enjoying my coffee and getting better learning from me makes me feel proud.”