Less than a year since its opening, Karma Coffee has already expanded beyond one sukul and three cushions to an entire showroom full of top-of-the-line equipment, custom-designed furniture and artwork that would leave anyone wondering just what the secret ingredient is for this coffeeshop’s instant success. Started as a one-woman operation, within two weeks Nepali-based Austrian expat Birgit Gyawali hired two baristas and soon realized her unique idea could actually work. With so many coffee houses opening up in the Jhamsikhel area, Karma Coffee stands out with it’s simple concept: pay what you like. That’s right, great Himalayan beans served in beautiful ceramic mugs made in Nepal and if you’re broke you don’t even have to pay a single paisa. It’s enough to make both your taste buds and wallet chime, “Areh wah!”
Initially, leaving her profitable job as a consultant for an essentially donation-based coffee spot was a risk many scoffed at. However, just as soon as Karma Coffee opened up Gyawali found herself meeting regulars, all clamoring for their next cuppa joe. With the generously open price tag everyone from struggling workers to affluent patrons stop by. So much interest was expressed in the place that Birgit soon found herself designing and exploring other aspects of owning such a business. After a massage studio closed shop, Karma Coffee found itself a new home.
Nestled in the heart of the Moksh complex across from St. Mary’s School in Lalitpur, Karma Coffee not only serves delicious coffee, but it also just looks very cool. The rustic cow-dung and mud mixture slathered on the walls match everything from the up-cycled coffee filter turned lampshades to the beautifully framed product descriptions. Now able to boast about the homemade Biscotti, newly designed journals with Nepali coffee paper, natural beauty products like coffee massage oil, Karma Coffee is proving to be a great boost to the local coffee market.
Perhaps it’s Birgit’s innovative thinking that leads her to try and succeed with every idea she comes up with. When asked how it feels to be a competitor to a more established and Nepal’s leading coffee house, Himalayan Java (right across the lawn from Karma Coffee), Gyawali responds, “I’m not competition; more an addition.” This friendly feeling is apparent amongst the baristas, customers and passersby as people share conversation on the balcony and laughter between each sip.
For business’ interested in catering with Karma Coffee, that’s also a possibility. Freelancers looking to rent space can also find a home with the space. Just ask the Chinese Kalligraphy teacher who’s been leading private classes for the past two months. Whether you’re a visiting tourist, a permanent citizen of Nepal or just a curious reader who secretly prefers tea, you’re sure to find this place perfect for your needs. Stop by seven days a week and find the cosiest second home in all of Patan.