Puja Thapaliya: A Journey of Passion and Persistence in the Coffee Industry

In the bustling world of coffee, Puja Thapaliya stands as a beacon of inspiration, seamlessly blending her expertise from the beauty industry with her unwavering passion for all things coffee. As a Coffee Consultant, she brings a unique perspective to the table, crafting a narrative of innovation, dedication, and relentless pursuit of excellence. In this exclusive interview, Puja shares her remarkable journey, from transitioning from beauty to brews, competing on national stages, to organizing enriching workshops. Her story is a testament to the boundless opportunities within the coffee industry and the transformative power of following one’s heart.

Follow Puja’s inspiring journey in this entertaining conversation:

What inspired you to transition from the beauty industry to the coffee industry?

coffee industry always motivates me to awake curiously, I find a its a suitable platform to innovate and connect with diverse people. It’s an arena where we can blend different cultures, share knowledge, and continuously learn. The journey in coffee is never-ending, offering endless opportunities to engage, create, and evolve together.

  • Could you share more about your journey from being a barista cum cashier to competing in national Brewer’s Championships?

I started as a barista and cashier in coffee industry, by the time,  I always wanted to explore new things. Despite the belief that women should focus on house stuffs, I pursued my passion for coffee and competition, which allows me to continue learning. I am exploring every possible way to make coffee better. Competing in the National Brewer’s Championships was my dream from past years, I was so excited to demonstrate my passion and dedication for coffee in National Stage. I hope my journey inspires others to go after what they love, no matter what people expect

  • How did your perception of coffee change after experiencing different origins and flavors during cupping sessions?

Experiencing different origins and flavors during cupping sessions opened my eyes to the incredible diversity within the world of coffee. Before, I saw coffee as just a morning pick-me-up with lots of sugar,but now I see it as a complex and fascinating beverage with endless possibilities of learning . Each origin has its own unique characteristics and story, from the fruity notes of Ethiopian coffees to the chocolatey richness of brazil beans. Cupping sessions taught me to appreciate the nuances of flavor, aroma, and body, and to understand how factors like altitude, soil, and processing methods influence the final cup. It’s like exploring a whole new world with every sip, and it’s made me even more passionate about coffee and its cultural significance.

  • What were the biggest challenges you faced during your intensive 15-day training program as a barista?

During my intensive 15-day training program as a barista, one of the biggest challenges I faced was the huge volume of information and skills to absorb in a short amount of time. From mastering various brewing techniques to understanding the nuances of coffee origins and flavors, there was a lot to learn and practice. The funny part during my first cupping experience, I couldn’t sleep whole night and got sick from too much caffeine. However,instead of giving up, it made me even more curious to learn.

  • Can you describe your experience competing in the UAE National Brewer Championship in 2022?

Wow,Competing in the UAE National Brewer Championship in 2022 was both thrilling and nerve-wracking, especially since it was my first time. Despite the challenge of balancing long workdays with intense practice, my determination to excel kept me going.

Even though I ended up as the 1st runner-up, it only fueled my motivation further. It inspired me to analyze my performance, find any errors, and bounce back even stronger. For me, the competition wasn’t just about winning; it was about continuous improvement and pushing myself to new heights.

  • How do you balance your passion for coffee with the demands of your profession?

Working in a roastery allows me to seamlessly blend my passion for coffee with my profession. I approach each day with structured planning, dedicating specific hours to ensure quality standards while nurturing my love for coffee through exploration, experimentation, and staying updated on industry trends. By integrating my passion into my professional duties, I contribute to the growth of the specialty coffee industry while thriving in my role.

  • What advice would you give to women who aspire to pursue a career in the coffee industry?

To women aspiring to join the coffee industry, I offer this advice: Embrace your passion and don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. Take every opportunity to learn and grow, whether through formal training or hands-on experience. Be resilient in the face of challenges and always strive for excellence. Remember that your voice and perspective are valuable assets in shaping the future of the industry. Surround yourself with supportive mentors and colleagues, and never underestimate the power of networking. So , go ahead and, chase your dreams .the world is waiting for your unique contribution.

  • What role do you think networking and community engagement played in your journey?

It  played pivotal roles in my journey in the coffee industry. By actively participating in coffee-related events, joining online forums, and connecting with fellow coffee enthusiasts, I’ve been able to expand my knowledge, forge valuable relationships, and stay updated on industry trends.

Networking has opened doors to new opportunities, whether it’s discovering job openings, collaborating on projects . Engaging with the coffee community has provided me with a supportive network of like-minded individuals who share my passion and enthusiasm for coffee.

Moreover, community engagement has allowed me to give back to the industry by sharing insights, volunteering at events, and mentoring aspiring coffee professionals. It’s a two-way street – as I contribute to the community, I also benefit from the collective knowledge and support of my peers. Overall, networking and community engagement have been instrumental in shaping my journey in the coffee industry, helping me grow professionally and personally.

  • Could you share a memorable moment or achievement that stands out to you in your coffee career?

One standout moment in my coffee career was competing in the national Brewers Cup Championship. It was a amazing experience where I showcased my skills and passion for brewing coffee , and pushing myself continuously learning and experimenting.

Another memorable experience was organizing a workshop in Darjeeling with Sonam. First year we just organized cupping sessions, which brought together producers, roasters, and cafe owners and baristas and even normal people eager to learn about coffee. This things didn’t end up here;we went back again for next event. We managed to do 2 days of event.During this two-day event, we conducted cuppings of over 15 different coffee origins and even organized a latte art throw-down at second day. The enthusiasm and eagerness to learn from everyone involved made it a super enjoyable event. Yes; we did it at our vacation time but it was so worth it. The success of the workshop has inspired us to go back again, and we’re already planning our next event. It’s moments like these that remind me of the impact we can have by sharing our knowledge and passion for coffee with others.

  • How do you continue to evolve and grow within the coffee community?

To continue evolving and growing within the coffee community, especially for women, it’s crucial to actively engage with other women in the industry. By connecting with supportive networks, attending workshops tailored to our needs, and participating in women-led initiatives, we empower each other and foster growth. Embracing our unique perspectives and sharing experiences further fuels our evolution within the coffee world. Through continuous learning, collaboration, and support, we contribute to a more inclusive and diverse coffee community, where everyone can thrive. I hope my story inspires other women to join me on this journey of growth and empowerment within the coffee industry.

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