Bhavana Coffee Company
“Bhavana: From its direct translation of “Feelings” in Nepali to its Sanskrit interpretation of cultivating, developing and producing, for us, Bhavana, evokes a sense of creation.” – Bhavanacoffee.com
If you asked me just a month ago if I’d ever heard of coffee from Nepal, I would have told you no. I can probably guess that most of you would have said the same thing. Well, I can officially say that I’ve had my first cup of coffee from Nepal, from a really great company called Bhavana Coffee.
Disclosure: Bhavana Coffee provided me with a free bag of coffee, but all the opinions in this post are my own.
Bhavana Coffee was started by Jennifer Lan. Jen took what was supposed to be a two week trip to Nepal, and immediately fell in love with the people. It was their kindness, hospitality, and their willingness to invite anyone and everyone into their lives that made Jen want to create a bridge to connect these people to her family and friends in America. Jen had always been a coffee lover, and she was determined to bring coffee from Nepal, back to America, and do it in a way that would impact the culture and benefit the people in Nepal. She packed up and moved to Nepal, and Bhavana Coffee was born.
Q&A With Jennifer
I had the opportunity to chat with Jennifer about her business, and she not only loves coffee, but she loves the people that grow it as well. We had a little Q and A, so before I talk about the coffee, I’d love to share our conversation with you.
Q: What was it about Nepal that made you want to stay, and what made you decide to bring their coffee to America?
A: It’s hard for me to describe the magic of Nepal. What I’ll say is I’ve never been anywhere like it. It has stunning natural beauty and it’s own fabulously rich culture that you could spend forever getting to know, but it’s the smiles and the people that make it worth it. I’ve traveled quite a bit and I’ve learned to read all types of smiles, but the ease and realness that you’ll find in the smiles. Nepal brings out the best in people, including myself. My experience there was so rich, and I really wanted to share it with my friends and family. I was looking for something to actually connect these two worlds past a photo or Facebook post and amazingly found it in coffee. There is so much that we mutually learn and gain from this endeavor.
Q: What makes Bhavana coffee different from the typical Fair Trade coffee company?
A: Well first I’d applaud a Fair Trade coffee company because we would share similar intentions. Fair Trade was created to reduce poverty in developing countries through better prices, working conditions, and sustainability. That is at the core of what we do.
However, there are fundamental economics about how the Fair Trade program is designed that limits or in some arguments, make it counter productive. At Bhavana Coffee, I believe what we do is more effective and efficient in transferring the consumers goodwill back to the producers. By working directly at origin, with a focus on transparency and a fully integrated model that cuts out middlemen, we are able to pay 3x more the Fair Trade price of Arabica beans to the farmers. We also support initiatives that address the root of core poverty issues like education, safety and entrepreneurism. We are currently working with Nuwa Estate coffee and the Nepal Green Tara Foundation (NGTF). We pay Nuwa per KG and within that amount we include a specific contribution to NGTF – and as we grow, our contribution will grow.
Q: What was the most difficult thing you’ve encountered on your journey to bring coffee from Nepal, and sell it here in America?
A: I’m smiling with this question, looking back on our journey in the past year. Every step has had unique challenges. The first challenge was getting to understand the capabilities and constraints of an industry in a foreign country.
These ranged from practical matters such as getting out to the farms in rural areas that have less than ideal roads, cars and facilities (in one instance, we had to whittle a plug for the car radiator out of a branch using a machete,) to conceptual ones like what is the best way to implement quality assurance and incentives across 16 wet mills or promote local coffee culture and education.
Another challenge was introducing a new origin to the US. Few people had ever heard of coffee growing in Nepal and most didn’t think that it would be possible to grow quality Arabica coffee there. Then there were the logistical challenges of working to import and export ourselves, develop a product, etc. all the challenges every small business owner faces everyday. I feel really lucky that we’ve had people that helped, to champion this cause all along the way. There are too many to list but I hope you know who you are! It made such a difference and allowed us to get to where we are today.
Q: What would make you feel like you’ve been successful?
A: This is tough because I hope that this is just the start. I hope we can find the right audience that would allow us to create a market in the US and build off of it’s success. I’d like to potentially explore other regions/origins in Nepal, to see continued growth in quality and quantity of coffee grown there, to bring other roasters there, and partner with more education/ health/ or entrepreneurial projects. Aim high, right!?
Bhavana is currently offering a really good coffee, called the Namaste Roast. This coffee is grown on the Nuwa Estate, which was established by one of Nepal’s few female entrepreneurs named Bandi Nema Sherpa Tenzing. Bandi has used her estate, and education to build opportunities in the rural areas of Nepal and to help combat human trafficking in the country.
Her success has also lead her to establish a non-profit called the Nepal Green Tara Foundation. Through the foundation, they have built four schools in Nuwakot, and they are even able to support the schools operation and the teachers salaries. A portion of the sales from Bhavana go directly to the non-profit.
The Namaste roast is a fully washed, bourbon coffee, and is grown at roughly 1450 meters. The bag gives us tasting notes of brown sugar, nuts, and citrus.
I used my pour over, as I tend to do for just about every cup of coffee I make. The first thing I noticed about this coffee was that it is very clean and smooth. I was able to nutty flavor notes at the first sip, which then turned into hints of stone fruit. It was a very delicious cup, and I enjoyed it to the very last drop.