Nepal has the potential for some of the best coffee in the world. The problem is the country is still developing so it's not a priority, yet. Grown in the Himalayan foothills Nepal's coffee production is finally kicking off. With some beans grown over 4,000 m the taste is strong, nutty and very smooth. The main issue is ... roasting.
To give you an idea, here's a seperate review of the best coffee beans and roasters in Nepal.
Similarly cafes as a place to chill with a cup of coffee have only taken off since about 2014. Post-2015 earthquake, has meant Nepal's reconstruction of its tourism industry has given a boost in coffee shop demand. However these businesses are reliant on tourist numbers and good business practices. Something that is not always available in Nepal. The result is that many coffee shops and cafes in Nepal open up and are gone again in 6 months.
Another problem in Nepal is the influx of cheap "Nescafe" style drinks for Chinese tourists who don't favor natural brewed coffee. They like flavored coffee and are not fussed about quality. The result is that many restaurants or hotels are opting for the cheaper and easier options involving coffee.
I like freshly roasted coffee. An Italian mid to dark roast is my favorite. Espresso in particular or for some afternoons a mocha. A breakfast Americano will also do if need be. On this page I'll show you where to find the best real coffee in places that should remain open for a while. I'll also touch on locations where you can get good coffee and locations where you can't find a good cup so you'll need to bring your own.
More about coffee growing in Nepal
The most popular coffee grown in Nepal is Arabica coffee. Areas it is grown include Palpa, Dolpa Lalitpur, Kavrepalanchok, Sindhupalchowk, Lamjung, Kaski, Gorkha, Syangja, Parbat, Baglung and the in the hills around Pokhara. Above 4,000 meters and the coffee beans are said to be especially good.
There are many coffee shops and cafes in Kathmandu city that claim to serve real coffee. Unfortunately most do not. The coffee is either not fresh or else it's Nescafe. Unfortunately cafes in Kathmandu are in the habit of overcharging for a coffee too. So watch out!
Some notes about the reviews:
* you might notice me referencing a 10% service charge every now and then. In Nepal there's a 10% service charge and 13% VAT charge on all industries in tourism etc. Some cafes add it into the price others leave it until the bill arrives which annoys me greatly. So, I'm making a point about this as part of a "good coffee experience.".
The reviews here are about the cafe, coffee and service. It's not about the best place to come and sit with a laptop for 10 hours.
Himalayan Java Coffee
Himalayan Java Coffee is Nepal's own brand and it's got several locations in Kathmandu and Pokhara. The easiest to reach is the one in Mandala street and the other is near Tri Devi which even displays a roaster. Another popular location is the shop in Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur). All locations offer comfortable seating and a good range of coffees. They also offer cakes, breads and meals. The espresso here is only okay. The taste is smooth and the roast airs on a medium roast. The presentation is very nice with a little tray, a nugget of cake, a shot glass of water. There have been occasions where you'll need to ask for a water. Americanos are a little lackluster and sometimes not very hot. Mocha's are bad. The staff can be pretentious and have been for years. Management really need to lose the ego and invest in polite staff who know about coffee. Most waiters seem clueless about the actual coffee itself. Just try asking for a dark roast - despite the company selling them they won't serve it - unless you demand it and then they'll bring you the same as a mid or medium or whatever they are having in stock that day. The main issue is that it's usually full of hipsters, expats, rich Nepali kids and volunteers which takes any relaxation and throws it out the window. If you like the scene, go for it. Otherwise ...
Located in Amrit Marg the popular Chikusa Cafe has been around since 1998 which makes it one of the oldest dedicated coffee cafes in Nepal. At first the bar area looks small but there is a back to the cafe where smokers can go. Don't expect to find an espresso machine here, there is none and that doesn't matter. The freshly ground coffee here is served up through cloth filters, moka pots and french presses. It's a wonderful strong flavoured coffee rich in texture and taste. There's an extensive breakfast and snack menu served throughout the day by the friendly staff. There's a great atmosphere here, wifi works and the coffee served is some of the best in Kathmandu. Get here early for breakfast though, as it's very busy from 8am -11am. There's a constant turn around here, so no room for those looking to stay all day with a laptop.
Himalayan Arabica Beans
Located at the top of Seven Corner Street this pleasant coffee shop offers a nice ambiance. One of best qualities is that the smoking section is outside! They have a good menu for lunches, breakfasts and coffee but unfortunately add a service charge to the bill.
While the barista's are knowledgable about their coffee which shows as they are well made here and given the setting makes for a very pleasant experience.
Practically a landmark in Thamel, Pumpernickel Bakery has been serving happy travelers for decades. A coffee here is not so established though. Basic brews at high prices seem to be the order of the day. An Americano is okay but nothing to write home about. All other coffees are so so.
Cafe De Genre
Located just before Chhetrapati in Thamel (along JP Road) is this tiny little "local" coffee shop. Sadly they make nice espressos and mochas. There's also a cheap but clean restaurant here. It's very small and sadly it's often filled with young Nepali smoking. But if you pass by and it's empty it's worth a quick coffee here.
Garden of Dreams
Another favorite landmark of Kathmandu is the Garden of Dreams offering some of the best landscaped gardens in Nepal. The coffees served inside at the Kaiser Cafe are good but again by no means special. They are however some of the most expensive coffees in Nepal (more so when you have to include the Garden of Dreams entrance charge). Most of the people here are again expats, rich Nepali and the odd tourist looking for a break. If it's a break from the traffic of Kathmandu you are after with great scenery (there's an entrance fee) and a good coffee, then you'll find it here.
The coffee served here is fine, but overpriced and seriously not worth it during the off season. Go here in the afternoon or late morning during peak tourist season when they've remembered to turn the espresso machine on for a while. There's nothing outstanding about it in either case.
A nice restaurant serving good quality food that currently. Don't expect fancy blends but an Americano here with breakfast is worth the trip.
Tea Lounge (formerly Woodside Coffee Shop)
Located opposite hotel Marshyangdi, the coffee shop here was renamed the Tea Lounge. Despite this they mainly have coffee on the menu and it's some of the best coffee in Kathmandu at excellent prices.There's a small selection of well priced cakes and sandwiches here too. The only downside is if there's a power interruption then there's no coffee. Thankfully that's rare these days.
Hot Breads Bakery
This iconic little bakery has invested in an Illy espresso machine downstairs. You can take the coffees upstairs if you wish afterwards. It's one of the few places open at 7am where you can get a hot coffee. It's over priced, but there's not much of choice at that time of the morning.
Himalayan Mountain Coffee
Located on a second floor building (under Norling Tibetan Restaurant) in Thahiti Chowk, this new coffee shop is well worth a visit if the right crew are on duty. The coffees are good aside from the mild espresso. One of the few places that will give you a glass of water with your espresso and a nibble of Walnut cake (which is really good).
Sadly the staff are inconsistent and some are better than others depending on which day you visit. They also include a 10% charge on the bill. A window seat gives you a great view over Thahiti chowk outside.
A new cafe and one of the very few offering Jalpa coffee beans in Kathmandu. Located close to the Bhagwati Temple in Thamel. It's certainly more of a restaurant than a coffee shop with wafts of curry coming from the kitchen. So the ambiance is not very good. However the because of the export Jalpa bean alone the coffee here is certainly worth a try. I'm not convince it will stay open for very long, but hopefully the owners can turn this around.
There's a growing collection of coffee shops in Freak street. This one has been here since the late 1960s. Good coffee is not a strong point here. In fact, it may even be Nescafe ... but it certainly has the very best cakes in all Nepal. The apple crumble may well be the best in the world. Order a milk coffee, it's the safest.
For real coffee in Freak street there are plenty of "six monthly" cafes. The latest batch are located along the two side streets as you come out of the Snowman and turn left.
Opened in 2017 this underground coffee shop is hard to find but worth the effort. Located along the last third of JP Road in Thamel it's on the right if headed to Chhetrapti - you'll see some steps leading up then down! The cafe is bright with lovely new wood chairs and tables all surrounded by books. The coffee here is well made with a nice selection. There's great Wifi and a small menu on offer. As of now the cafe is "undiscovered", meaning it's clean, quite and cool. A great place to have a good coffee and to sit reading a book!
Other honorable mentions
Dedicated coffee shops are hard to come by. Most local people have a coffee with their breakfast or a snack. Some of the better places to get a good Americano include. Black Olives, Flavors (Boudhanath), Rosemary restaurant, Gaia restaurant, Zaika Nepali Cuisine and the little coffee store outside Sherpa Mall along Durbar Marg.
Check out the map below to find the exact locations of all the coffee shops mentioned above in Kathmandu.
For more maps of coffee shops around Nepal get my guidebook to Nepal mentioned at the bottom of this page.
Being Nepal's number one tourist resort Pokhara's Lakeside area has had numerous coffee shops open up in the past few years. The problem is many of them don't stay open for long. That said, there's something al lot more relaxing about having a coffee in Pokhara than in Kathmandu!
Himalayan Java Coffee
Opening in 2015 the location offers some of the best morning views for a coffee in all Nepal. Similar to Kathmandu the coffees are well roasted, nutty and hot. The staff here are lacking any enthusiasm though. The presentation of an espresso is the best in Nepal but that doesn't make up for the long wait time.
AM/PM Organic Cafe
Probably the most popular cafe in Pokhara for volunteers AM/PM does serve a good coffee with a good menu choice. The problem is the price. The coffee here is overpriced and when they do adjust the price the menu items seem to go up.
There's an upstairs and downstairs seating area to Perky Beans so don't let the small entrance put you off. The coffees here are quite good, nothing super special, but good. It's well worth diving into their giant milkshakes, mint lemonade and sandwiches though!
Located just off the main strip this little coffee cafe is probably one of the nicest dedicated coffee shops in Nepal. The coffee itself is well roasted and none too bitter. There's a nice selection of cakes and breads here as well. On a sunny morning it makes for a great place to sit out and enjoy a good coffee.
One would never think that a pizza place could serve up a great coffee. Pokhara Pizza probably has the best Espresso in Nepal if not Asia. Go to the coffee bar section and you'll see a small hand roaster. The beans are from the owners farm. There's a fresh roast every week which makes this nutty smooth coffee like liquid gold. Sadly they stopped making their own roasts in 2017 and just stick to branded beans.
Other honorable cafe mentions in Pokhara
As mentioned at the start coffee shops in Pokhara seem to come and go every 6 months or so. Generally speaking restaurants in Pokhara don't serve the best cups of coffee compared to Kathmandu. That said, it's easier to find a new cafe in Pokhara than Kathmandu. So keep hunting!
Don't expect to get a good coffee in Chitwan. There's only one dedicated coffee shop in Sauraha and it's not always open.
Coffee Shop (Sauraha)
The only dedicated coffee shop in Chitwan they have an Illy espresso machine. The shop is usually open but the coffee machine is usually dependant on electricity being available.
Other places to get a coffee in Chitwan
Most hotels and restaurants in Chitwan offer coffee. Do be careful of the "Nescafe Effect" here. Ask for "filtered coffee" to be sure.
Aside from high-end resorts it's hard to find freshly ground coffee in the rest of Nepal. However you will find good coffee popping up in the strangest of places like alongside a road by the Elephant breeding center in Bardia.
Similarly there is civet coffee (Kopi luwak / poop coffee) in the foothills of Pokhara, again it's listed in my guidebook.
Again, your best option to find fresh coffee in Nepal is to ask for "filtered coffee", nearly everyone knows what this is. From there, ask for the type of coffee you want. Do take note of the type of place your are in though, as many places outside of Kathmandu or Pokhara simply won't know what you mean.
For a full list of cafes and restaurants do check out my guidebook to Nepal below.
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