Puja Thapaliya stands as a testament to the transformative power of dedication and hard work. Most importantly, Puja aspires to inspire women globally, particularly those who hail from Asian countries where prevailing stereotypes suggest that women lack the ability to stand alongside men. Puja proudly bears the title of the first Nepali woman to compete in the national Brewer’s Championship and the first female recipient of the prestigious trophy. Through her story, she aims to encourage all women to believe in their own abilities and recognize the boundless potential that lies within them.
Her name is Puja Thapaliya, and this is her coffee story.
In Nepal, Puja had established herself in the coffee industry for five years. Throughout her journey, she witnessed numerous transformations in both her personal and professional life.
Puja, like many others, believed that all coffees were inherently bitter. To offset this bitterness, she would add generous amounts of sugar. However, everything changed when Puja had the opportunity to taste a variety of coffee origins during cupping sessions. She was captivated by the range of flavors – from fruity to nutty and even floral notes. One coffee that particularly stood out was an Ethiopian V60 that offered a delightful blend of orange and pineapple flavors. To this day, the taste of certain natural Ethiopian coffees transports Puja back to that cherished time.
Puja’s story began when she decided to seek better opportunities as a beautician in the United Arab Emirates in 2017. After working in the beauty industry for two years, she felt dissatisfied with her future prospects. Restless and in search of a new path, she began exploring other opportunities within her network.
It was during this time that Puja’s coffee friend alerted her to an interview at a recently opened café. Uncertain about which industry to pursue, Puja took a leap of faith and attended the interview. To her delight, she was appointed as a Barista cum Cashier.
Prior to the café’s official launch, Puja and her new barista team underwent an intensive 15-day training program to familiarize themselves with the essentials of coffee. Though the training period was demanding, Puja eagerly absorbed knowledge on espresso, milk-based beverages, pour-over techniques, and coffee evaluation. Coffee became more than just a beverage to Puja; it became a passion.
Through her involvement in the coffee community, Puja connected with individuals who shared her passion, including fellow Nepalis. She actively engaged with this network to enhance her knowledge and ascertain whether the coffee industry was the ideal fit for her. Puja participated in local competitions, attended workshops, and continuously expanded her skill set. It ultimately became evident to Puja that in order to grow and face new challenges, she needed to embrace change and seek opportunities in different locations.
In 2022, Puja’s long-held dream of competing in the UAE National Brewer Championship materialized, and she achieved the remarkable feat of becoming the First Runner-Up. The experience was a mix of exhilaration and stress as she balanced long hours of work with limited practice time. Experimenting with various brewing gadgets and coffee variables proved particularly challenging, as did the pursuit of creating the perfect water for coffee.
Throughout her journey, she encountered both highs and lows, understanding that such fluctuations were integral to her personal and professional development. During her days off and free time, Puja eagerly delved deeper into the world of coffee, devouring coffee podcasts, frequenting coffee shops, and participating in workshops. Meeting individuals who shared her vision filled her with a profound sense of joy.
Puja’s tale serves as a reminder that greatness can be achieved by anyone who dares to dream and works diligently to turn those dreams into reality. She advises women to join the vibrant coffee community, where their voices can be heard, and endless opportunities for learning and growth await.
United by a shared passion, let us learn and evolve together, for there are no limits to what can be accomplished within the remarkable realm of coffee.