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Nepal’s Steepest Cup of Tea

To some, it’s worth a hundred dollars.

A motorbike parked in front of a coffee shop in Kathmandu
Mohan’s coffee shop in Kathmandu is a melting point for students, riders and story tellers.

Mohan is Nepali and runs a tiny eatery in a bustling neighborhood in Kathmandu. The Namaste Lainchaur Tea & Coffee Shop welcomes students, motorbike riders, and unusual stories.

Outside, the regulars usually enjoy their moment under dilapidated umbrellas on stacked bricks that serve as benches. A handful of tables are pushed back and forth to wherever they are needed. Practically, they are made of plastic and are easy to shift.

Nothing about this place seems out of the ordinary. An inconspicuous tea house, just like zillions of others you can find all across this country. If it weren’t for the cup of tea at the outrageous price of one hundred dollars …

Or rather the story that goes along with it.

Mohan talks slowly; a bit mumbled because his upper row of teeth went missing. But it does not stop him from entertaining his guests with exciting stories involving his shop. Mohan remembers a peculiar tourist—maybe an American—who had made himself comfortable on the shop's patio months ago. He ordered a cup of masala tea and a snack. Mohan hurried away, only to take his time with preparations. He is not a man of rushing.


After his guest had finished his tea and stowed away the cake, he requested the bill. Mohan didn’t have to spend much time doing the math.

“Hundred dollars,” he replied cunningly, sensing a deal.

The guest probably hadn’t noticed Mohan’s mischievous smile. Without irritation, he opened his wallet, pulled out a hundred-dollar bill, placed it on the table, and walked away. Mohan was so baffled he stood rooted to the ground for a moment. Meanwhile, the stranger had disappeared around the corner into the crowd when Mohan started darting after him, tightly clutching the precious dollar note. When he caught up with the tall man, he shyly tapped him on the shoulder.

“Sorry, my friend. I make bad joke. No hundred dollars, rupees. Take back dollar.” “Oh, no problem,” the man replied, grinningly. “It’s fake. Please keep it and turn it into a good story”.

And so, the story has been told a thousand times. Maybe it ends slightly differently each time. But Mohan’s austere tea room has turned into a place of charming anecdotes that make its regulars return.

I am now one of them.

 

Thank you for reading a roadside story from Nepal and for your time!



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