Coffee, design and craft come together beautifully at an unassuming store near Lazimpat.
Adjoining the Shangrila Hotel in Lazimpat is Ranibari Lane. A few turns later a neat, white two-storied building appears that has the offices of MAP Nepal, Design Academy, and Mitini. The first is a ‘sustainable travel agency’ that also runs three home stay programs. The second is a training center that provides intensive courses in fashion design, sewing, patterns, and cutting. On the ground floor are Café Mitini and Shop Mitini. All of these are part of S.E.A. (Social Enterprise Activation) Center, whose aim is ‘to develop fair trade as a job creation strategy’; ‘to develop fair tourism through sustainable and community based tourism’; and ‘to establish city-based social enterprises support center to overcome dispersed support and integrate isolated producers’.
The S.E.A. Center was established as a Nepal-Korea cooperative venture just this year in May and is funded by KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency). Coming to the oasis part, the whole set up is as neat as can be and quite welcoming. The main wooden door embossed with bronze plates leads to a modest café that accommodates half a dozen wooden tables. At the far end is the meeting room, a small room with a large table and chairs adorned with shelves of books and magazines on travel and design. Across Café Mitini is Shop Mitini.
Ms. Miae Chang is the lady behind this multi-venture establishment. Ms Chang is from Seoul and has substantial experience in the field of social development, having worked for five years in Kampuchea, a year in India, and two in Australia. She prefers to be called ‘Maya’ because, “Miae means ‘beautiful love’ and the Nepali name, Maya, has a similar meaning.”
Speaking about the café specifically, its one-page menu is decidedly unpretentious with a list of hot and cold beverages and light snacks like croissants, sandwiches, and salads. “Two of our specialties are Hand Dripped coffee (Rs. 180 for hot and Rs. 200 for cold), and Dutch coffee (Rs. 200 for hot). The former is manually brewed and has a clean and refreshing taste, while the latter is cold-brewed drop by drop and is aged with an aromatic flavor,” says Ms. Chang.
About the Design Academy, she says, “We have a three-month course that runs five days a week, for three hours a day, and costs only Rs.500 a month. We take in interested people who have a suitable background in the field and want to improve their skills.” Shop Mitni sells their products, besides other handicrafts from various organizations like Mahaguthi, Sana Hastakala, Mili Kala, Women’s Skill Development Organization (Pokhara) and Ritu Saugat (Pokhara). The products include baby clothes (Rs.500 each); men’s and women’s wear (Rs. 500 to Rs.1500 each); wooden wall plaques (Rs.350 to Rs.900); bags (Rs.1000 onwards); ceramic items; herbal soaps, and dolls besides others. Pointing out a unique looking coffee set, Ms. Chang says, “It was designed by a Dutch lady. It is made in Thimi using a special type of clay.” There are also soap bars (made by Nature Essence) that are quite unique in that one set is branded as Yak Milk with four varieties: lavender, jasmine, vanilla, and Rose de May.
All in all, Mitini is most definitely a place where friends can meet in a relaxing atmosphere and contribute their bit to the less privileged by purchasing some handicrafts over a cup (or two) of refreshing coffee.
Address: Lazimpat, Kathmandu,