Local Tastes, Global Palates

India’s having a moment on the world stage. Gone are the days of cutting corners and jugaad. Now, ‘Make in India’ is the new refrain reflecting the acceptance and use of Indian homegrown brands and products around the world. It isn’t just the fact that hitherto difficult-to-access and expensive products are now available in our own country at reasonable prices. It’s also that these products are winning global awards and accolades, often beating their well-established international counterparts in the process. We examine the best of the best.

A Cuppa Delight

An area in which India is well-established for its expertise, is the making of tea and coffee. However, it requires skill—and cutting out the middleman—to put the best Indian tea and coffee brands on the world market. Hence, ARAKU from its native Andhra Pradesh is India’s first coffee with flagships in Paris and Bengaluru, and the world’s first terroir-mapped coffee to promote the world’s largest certified organic plantation in the eastern ghats of India. This brand produces gourmet coffee, runs an internationally recognised coffee academy with a dedicated manual brewing station and a curated bookstore, as well as a popular restaurant in Mumbai conceptualised by chef Rahul Sharma and restaurateur Aditi Dugar.

“We have always emphasised on regenerative agriculture. ARAKU Coffee is nurtured in micro-plots and selectively harvested to fully express the richness of its unique character. In 2018, it also became the first specialty coffee from India to receive international acclaim, receiving the Epicure D’Or at Prix Épicures De L’Épicerie Fine Awards, in France,” shares Dugar, who is also the chief brand advisor. Most recently, ARAKU Coffee bagged the top spot at the fifth World Coffee Conference 2023. Dugar explains why they stood out: “Our booth provided an immersive experience for customers, allowing them to sample our brews while gaining insights into our upcoming limited edition Microlot launch and brand story.”

ARAKU coffee

What ARAKU has done to coffee, Delhi-based VAHDAM® has done to tea. Bala Sarda, founder and CEO of the brand shares, “With a family legacy of over 90 years in the tea business, I had a strong connection to the industry. A pivotal moment came during a visit to our family’s holiday home in Darjeeling, where I encountered the world’s finest teas and engaged with industry veterans, tea growers, and customers.” It was at this point that he launched VAHDAM® India as a direct-to-consumer online tea brand in early 2015 at just age 23. “Our mission was to disrupt the 200-year-old global supply chain by sourcing directly from 150 farms across India and eliminating unnecessary middlemen,” he declares.

Now, having entered over 4,000 CVS stores in the US, which is the country’s largest pharmacy chain, they have certainly asserted their global presence. The brand’s best-selling Turmeric Ginger and Turmeric Ashwagandha range is most popular because as Sarda explains, “All teas are sourced directly from India’s choicest gardens, within days of harvest. Once the freshness and character is locked, they are immediately processed, cleaned, blended, and packaged garden-fresh at our BRC certified state-of-the-art facility and shipped off to consumers and global fulfilment centres in the shortest time possible.”

Another addition to the list of the best teas is Makaibari, grown in the Kurseong district of Darjeeling. The convergence point of three rivers, the unique terroir of this place ensures that the tea made here stands out. Spread across a 550-acre plantation, which is surrounded by the natural greenery of forests, the tea blend draws from the symbiotic relationship between nature and man. Its distinctive flavour and numerous experimental offerings such as peppermint white, apple cinnamon and ginger spice teas, have made it especially popular in the West.

Eleftheria Brunost

Melt in the Mouth

Great cheeses start with great milk,” believes Mausam Narang, the founder and head cheesemaker at Eleftheria Cheese. So, this award-winning brand sources milk from family-run farms across Maharashtra. Now that their Eleftheria Brunost has claimed fourth place at the World Cheese Awards organised by the UK based Guild of Fine Food in its 35th edition, they are certainly on a high.

This is no mean feat, considering they were picked from a whopping 4,502 entries from 43 countries. The Brunost or brown cheese method originated in Norway and is created by heating the leftover whey from cheesemaking, which leads to the caramelisation of the milk sugars, till the whey reaches a fudge-like consistency. Narang highlights that the texture is much like the Indian milk sweet ‘Peda’, which is why they emboss their initials in Devanagari script just as the creators of the Indian sweet do.

Another Indian cheese making a mark on the global stage is Chennai-based Käse. At the World Cheese Awards, they won a bronze for their lavender-infused cheddar in 2022, and in 2023 received a silver for their Alpine-style washed rind cheese which had been aged for 12 months. However, being recognised as one of the leading artisanal cheese brands in the country wasn’t their main mandate.

That was to address a social cause by providing gainful employment to girls who were differently abled. “Our inspiration comes from age-old cheesemaking practices across the globe, we travel and engage with cheesemakers to learn traditional styles and techniques to come back to our studio and create a version of that which best suits our terroir. Armed with the knowledge of traditional/natural cheesemaking we work with ethical sourced dairy and make over 40 different styles,” explains founder Namrata Sundaresan. What is truly unique, however, is their inclusion of herbs, spices, and leaves such as Kashmiri lavender flowers or their Fratelli signature line inspired by the vineyards of the same name.

Kase halloumi cheese

Quite like cheese, a product category that most of us won’t associate with successful Indian brands is that of chocolate. Vikas Temani, the founder and business head of Paul And Mike from Kochi found it strange that the so-called “premium” chocolate brands sold in India were always imported. He therefore made it his mission to launch a high-quality Indian chocolate brand in 2019. “We believe that exceptional chocolate can come only from the highest quality cocoa beans. So, we put great emphasis on the farming and fermentation of cocoa.

And then we pair this base chocolate with the best quality inclusions such as essential oils, nuts, fruits and spices. We use brown sugar for more complex flavour notes and use only pure cocoa butter,” he shares. This attention to detail paid off when the brand’s masala chai-flavoured vegan chocolate bar won the gold medal at the International Chocolate Awards (Asia-Pacific) 2023. Created using vegan milk powder derived from a special variety of rice grown in Kerala, it’s a unique blend of aromatic spices—ginger, black pepper, cardamom, clove, cassia and nutmeg. A winning combination if ever there was one.

Karthikeyan Palaniswamy, the co-founder of chocolate brand Soklet, had a different journey. He recalls, “In 2015, my brother-in-law, Harish, was looking for opportunities to export the cacao bean grown on his farm in Tamil Nadu. This led to a project in our own kitchen where we made a batch of chocolate after doing some research online.” Soon, a small chocolate lab had been set up.

By collaborating with chocolate makers in the US, they refined the processing of their beans and eventually won the ICA (International Cacao Awards)— the only platform for recognition of cacao beans in the world—at the Salon Du Chocolat in 2017. Their cacao beans were selected as one of the top 18 in the world. Palaniswamy proudly declares, “We were and still are the only Indian cacao grower to be selected and awarded at the ICA. This was a huge recognition for Indian cacao, as originally India was unknown in the craft chocolate industry. Now, many craft chocolate makers around the world are using Indian cacao.”

Indri single malt

In High Spirits

For a long time, India was unfairly judged for producing spirits that used molasses,” says Siddhartha Sharma, founder of Piccadily Distilleries, best-known for producing the Indian Single Malt Whisky, Indri. In 2010, the distillery was launched with the aim of changing this perception. New domestic spirits in a premium category were introduced to cater to a younger demographic. “We embraced this opportunity with an all-Indian team,” says Sharma.

Their vision came to fruition when the Indri Diwali Collector’s Edition 2023 was awarded the ‘Best in Show, Double Gold’ at the prestigious Whiskies of the World Awards last year, which is one of the largest whisky-tasting competitions in the world. It judges over 100 varieties of whiskies from across the globe every year through a rigorous blind tasting over several rounds across categories, by a panel of the top tastemakers and influencers in the alco-bev industry.

The Rampur Distillery has been around since 1943, but it birthed its champion in 2015. Sanjeev Banga, president—international business at Radico Khaitan Ltd., recalls, “We tasted a malt that we all fell in love with. So, we decided to bottle it as RAMPUR Indian Single Malt. In the first year itself, we won the Double Gold at the San Francisco Spirit and Wine Competition.” With seven expressions of RAMPUR available in over 40 countries, this whisky has certainly made a mark among malt connoisseurs and experts.

It’s the only Indian whisky to feature in the ‘Top 100 Premium Wine and Spirits Brands of the World 2023’ by both the Luxury Lifestyle Awards and Wine Enthusiast. The latest feather in its cap is the RAMPUR ASAVA being declared as the ‘Best World Whisky, 2023’ at the Barleycorn Awards, US. Banga says, “Everything that goes into a bottle of RAMPUR is 100 per cent Indian. As we are located in the foothills of the Himalayas, we have access to Himalayan ground water, and its air, soil and fruit plantations which lend a smooth, fruity and floral profile.”

Whilst promoting the malt in Europe, the team awoke to the emerging ‘Gin-aissance’ taking over the globe. They also noticed that though many gin brands used Indian names and botanicals, there was no Indian craft gin in the market. And so was born JAISALMER Indian Craft Gin in 2018. Banga describes this award-winning gin as a triple-distilled spirit, handcrafted in a traditional copper pot in small batches. “The recipe is derived from the ancient Indian knowledge of herbs,” shares Banga. Seven of the 11 botanicals used in the distillation process come from India, including coriander and vetiver, sweet orange peel from central India, cubeb pepper and lemongrass from south India, Darjeeling green tea leaves from the east, and lemon peel from the west. There are also angelica root, liquorice and caraway seeds which add a spicy, anise-tinged flavour. Hence, it was a fitting winner for the ‘Best Gin in Asia’ category at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and the ‘Fifty Best, Monde Selection’ at the San Francisco Spirits & Wine Competition.

While it’s one thing to promote a homegrown spirit, it’s entirely another to adopt with pride a heritage liquor. Mahua from Madhya Pradesh is the only spirit in the world that has been distilled from flowers steeped in sugar. The process of making it goes back centuries. It is a practice deeply entrenched in the local culture of the region. Mahua sold under the brand name ‘Mond’ is now being promoted by the state government. Plans are underway to sell it globally as a heritage drink.

from Food https://ift.tt/O7SfdZM

Post a Comment