Established under the parent company Alpine Coffee estate which was co-founded by Rabindra Shrestha and Kumud Singh in 2008, Katman’Du Coffee has grown to be one of the most well-recognized coffee brands in Nepal. Their coffee is locally sourced, processed, and produced through sustainable farming practices while employing a 90% women workforce. Perhaps the brand’s most distinct attribute is they encompass the entire value chain by harnessing the power of high-altitude farming in the fertile mid-hills of Nepal to a freshly brewed, barista-quality cup of coffee. This powerhouse brand’s activities also include a barista training academy, global exports to Japan, Korea, Denmark, Netherland, Singapore, and the United States, and authorized retail services for state-of-the-art coffee makers and farm processing equipment.
We had a conversation with one of the co-founders, Mr. Rabindra Shrestha, who describes his hands-on approach and journey of Katman’Du Coffee and future plans to further innovate the Nepali coffee sphere.
Read our conversation to learn more about the venture.
What was the journey behind the establishment of Katman’Du coffee?
Kumud Singh and I were fresh MBA graduates from Kathmandu University School of Management with an entrepreneurial streak in common. Back then, there were commercial coffee shops in Nepal but coffee farming was still quite rare. We seized this opportunity and purchased a farm in Nuwakot, which was both geographically suitable and convenient, jointly with our friends at Lekali coffee. At the same time, we started networking with coffee suppliers and shops to learn about the market which eventually led to the formal establishment of Alpine Coffee Estate.
Following this, we launched our brand Katman’Du Coffee in 2012, during which we had a small-scale production from our own farm in Nuwakot. Then in 2014, Alpine Coffee estate became one of the first companies to acquire a foreign direct investment (FDI) in the agriculture sector in Nepal, through the support of One to watch investment management company. The funds from this investment fueled the growth of our business, enabling us to obtain the required processing machinery, conduct on-site training, and infrastructure development on the farm, and scale up our production process.
One of the main unique selling point of your company is it encompasses the entire value chain from a farm to a cup of coffee. Can you please describe the processes that are included?
Yes, we encompass all the steps starting from farming to processing the beans and even supply the machines to brew coffee. Initially, we carried out all the steps by ourselves, however, in line with our growth and increased demand, our coffee beans from the Nuwakot farm weren’t sufficient hence, we moved to outsourcing from multiple origins which can vary according to seasonal availability. We source directly from Gulmi, Sindhupalchowk, Dhading, and indirectly from Lamjung, Illam, Palpa, Syangja, to name a few. As a result, the initial harvesting is carried out on-site by the farmers in their respective locations. We then further incorporate this with our own intermediary production steps which involve pulping, fermentation, washing and drying and storing in parchment bags. The parchment coffee is then hand-sorted, hulled, and roasted according to customer requirements for consumption, all these steps are carried out in-house to maintain standardization and ensure the quality of our coffee beans.
Another USP of your company and other Nepali coffee beans is high-altitude farming. Could you please explain how climatic factors affect the flavor profile of coffee?
The low-temperature conditions at high-altitude levels delay the coffee fruit or cherry ripening process, which increases the natural sugars and enhances the sweet flavour profile of the cherry, which gives our beans a distinct flavour and aroma. This factor affects any produce grown in high-altitude regions for which Nepal has large potential owing to the unique topography for farming.
What are the social impacts you have observed over the course of time through your business?
We excavated a 1.9 km road in Nuwakot through collaboration with Lekali coffee, to forge better connectivity of the local produce and supplies to the nearby market which also directly facilitated better access to schools, health posts, financial institutions, and markets for the local community members. Furthermore, the farmers were able to transfer their on-site training skills towards the development and enhancement of their own mini-coffee farms and even a coffee co-operative, known as Fung Fung Jharna co-operative, thereby encouraging entrepreneurial development. In fact, we currently purchase coffee crops from the co-operative directly, which is an added means of support to the community. Therefore, we believe we have made some level of changes to the community, which has definitely uplifted their socio-economic condition. their socio-economic condition.
What other product or service does Katman’Du coffee offer?
As of now in 2019, in Nepal, we are the authorized representatives for automatic bean to cup machines from the Italian brand CIME and Saeco professional, farm processing equipment from Indian-Scottish brand McKinnon and Garanti roasters from Turkey. This not only provides additional revenue to the company but has enhanced our growth in the business. In addition to these products, we also have our own barista training academy.
What is your main target audience through your current business model?
We mainly operate through a business-to-business model both locally and globally, in terms of supplying both coffee beans and coffee-making equipment. We supply to businesses nationwide from various establishments in Kathmandu to locations extending to Kuritar, Pokhara, Namche Bazar, and more.
Our products are also available for direct purchase at our outlet in the Lazimpat showroom or you can contact us via our Facebook, Instagram, or direct numbers. At present, we are at the evaluation stage to shift to a business-to-consumer model through the introduction of new products and retail outlets to gain better engagement and exposure to a wider customer base.
Do you have any future aims for expansion or product line diversification?
Many of our future ventures are centered around shifting to a business-to-consumer model. Firstly, we are currently working on producing ice-based pasteurized espresso using patented technology from Denmark, which is a concentrated espresso drink, packaged in a bottle and available in different flavours. The pasteurization process can extend the shelf-life of coffee from a week to one year. We are also introducing coffee capsules or refills using our ground coffee beans, which increases the simplicity and convenience to drink our coffee. Lastly, our other probable activity is to enter the retail space which gives us a platform for direct brand exposure.
What changes have you experienced in your personal growth through your entrepreneurial journey?
During the start-up stage ten years ago, we fulfilled the sole responsibilities of delivery, accounting, staff handling, and production roles and learned everything on the job, through experience. As a result, the company evolved to be one of our own self-identities and eventually had a profound and positive impact on our personal lives, by shaping our discipline and methods of doing business and living life. Most importantly, we learned how to build a good network through our work which is empirical in receiving opportunities and gaining personal and professional recognition.
If you are a coffee lover, do check out Katman’Du coffee’s social media including their Barista training academy, to learn more about their new range of products and machines!
Facebook: Alpine Coffee
Barista Training academy Facebook: Alpine Coffee School