Emily’s Coffee in Denver Colorado helps Bhutan refugees transition

“For refugees, new Denver coffee shop brimming with optimism”

October 30, 2011
By Penny Parker (thanks for shaing this story, Penny!)
Denver Post Columnist
Keshav Nepal, right, and Solomon Wolday hone their barista skills at Emily’s Coffee. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)

Barista-in-training Chuda Khanal locks his eyes on the nonfat decaf latte he’s constructing while trainer Alisa Melville hovers.

“I’m trying to get them to do latte art,” Melville said about the three students behind the counter at Emily’s Coffee, a new espresso shop at 1261 Glenarm Place created by the Language Learning Center of Emily Griffith Technical College. The three students, Bhutan refugees who were relocated to the United States from camps in Nepal, took a one-month course to learn job skills and U.S. workforce orientation.

Khanal uses a steady hand to carefully pour the steamed milk on top of the espresso.

“Keep it lower,” Melville tells him. “How you judge a good coffee shop is by latte art.”

Khanal successfully free pours a steamy squiggle on top of the drink. He smiles shyly as he hands the visitor his creation. It’s a proud moment.

Khanal and his pal and countryman Keshav Nepal are among a handful of Bhutan refugees training at the espresso shop. Their goal is to land jobs at a local coffee spot as a solid step toward independent living in the city that offered them an escape from the overcrowded camps in Nepal where they had been for roughly 20 years.

In Keshav Nepal’s case, his father and brother already lived in Denver, so it made sense for Lutheran Family Services of Colorado — the agency that sponsored relocation for him, his wife and 9-year- old child — to send him here.

“This is a new thing for me,” Nepal said about the barista training. “It’s like an art to me.”

Because of the Emily’s Coffee training and in partnership with the agency Pathways to Employment, Nepal has been offered a job at a Starbucks in Denver International Airport.

His ultimate goal is to become part of the transition team at Emily Griffith for refugees going through the job- training program.

“I had to go through the pain that refugees have to go through,” he said.

Emily’s Coffee offers a full espresso bar from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday. Info: emilyscoffee.com.