Espresso and ink

Published On: December 13, 2019 10:54 AM NPT By: URZA ACHARYA

From the tables, chairs to cupboards, everything here is made of wood and it all comes together beautifully to give Freak Street Kaffe a comfortable vibe. A large Buddha head sits atop the fireplace adding some color to the almost monochrome setting of black, brown, and grey. 

Freak Street Kaffe is located at…you guessed it, Freak Street in Basantapur, Kathmandu. It makes one half of the cafe/tattoo parlor that is run by duo Dinesh Maharjan and Prajina Shrestha. 

It’s an interesting place, I should say. The area around the staircase at the entrance of the cafe is filled with art from artists all around the world—people Maharjan and Shrestha met while traveling. As you enter the cafe, its rustic and antique decor is sure to catch your attention. 

From the tables, chairs to cupboards, everything here is made of wood and it all comes together beautifully to give the cafe a comfortable vibe. A large Buddha head sits atop the fireplace adding some color to the almost monochrome setting of black, brown, and grey. The cafe is jeweled with antique pieces like vintage film cameras, coffee cans that are decades old if not more, as well as books that one can feel free to pick and read whenever they visit the cafe. 

Moreover, the cafe stretches out onto a veranda that overlooks the street below and this is where you should sit if you want to enjoy the view of the surrounding areas, especially at dusk and at night.

Shrestha, who has been collecting antique pieces for a long time, always dreamt of starting a cafe that, she felt, could double as a gallery of sorts. She felt she could easily use the space to display her collection, promote traditional and contemporary art and, of course, serve good coffee. And thus, when the space above their more-than-a-decade-old tattoo parlor became available, Shrestha, along with Maharjan, took the leap and opened Freak Street Kaffe.  

“I have always been fascinated by coffee culture. It offers an environment where people can read and have meaningful interactions,” she says.

The charming point of the cafe is definitely its decor. “I had every detail of the cafe planned out in my mind and so when it came to bringing it to life, we left no stone unturned,” she says The space, which was nothing more than a big, plain area, was partitioned and redesigned to fit Shrestha’s vision. Along with making the décor one of its highlights, Shrestha claims Freak Street Kaffe is dedicated to serving the best coffee.

Shrestha reveals that initially she wanted to serve and promote local Nepali coffee. “But as I was just starting out, I couldn’t rely on the consistency of the coffee produced here,” she explains. And thus, she chose a popular and reliable brand in the coffee business—Illy. 

The coffee, according to Shrestha, combines the best coffee beans from around the world and is known for its consistency. Though a little expensive (as it has to be imported), she says it’s sure to be a hit among the masses. If you are visiting the café for the first time, Shrestha recommends you try the espresso or the Americano. If you are not much of a bitter coffee drinker, I can vouch that the Americano tasted really good.

The tattoo parlor
Dinesh Maharjan was a tattoo artist long before it was considered cool. Maharjan says it’s been 12 years. Maharjan, who had been sketching and painting ever since he was a child, was introduced to tattoo making through his friends who used self-made tattoo machines (called hand-made machines) to make tattoos. 

“I came to like tattooing as it was unique and edgy at the time,” he says adding that nowadays it has become pretty popular and accepted and has grown immensely both as a profession and a form of self-expression.

According to him, couple tattoos and friendship tattoos are very popular. “I’ve had people of all ages come to get inked but people in their 20s and 30s are the ones who are more inclined to get tattoos,” he says. Maharjan reveals that while some people get tattoos simply for its aesthetics, many like to add meaning to what they ink. “Personally, I advise my customers to take their time and carefully consider what they choose to tattoo on their bodies as it’s a permanent investment,” he adds.

Moreover, Maharjan has also worked as a tattoo artist in London, UK. He claims that the materials needed for tattoo making that are easily available there are hard to find here in Nepal. It does make things a little difficult, he says, but it’s nothing that can’t be worked around. Talking about the quality and safety of tattoo making, he says that depends upon a client’s level of awareness and choices.

As a senior tattoo artist here in Nepal, Maharjan is glad to see a lot of new tattoo parlors opening up and that the act of getting inked is being accepted by the masses. However, his main concern lies in how tattoo artists plan to deal with matters of hygiene. “There should be no compromise when it comes to hygiene. 

“Everything used while making a tattoo has to be properly cleaned, regularly changed and disposed carefully and clients too could do their part in ensuring that by being aware of these things and asking questions,” he concludes.

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