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Black pepper & cardamom, palm jaggery — ‘artisanal’ ice cream brands tickle Delhi taste buds

In the last few years, ‘healthier’ ice creams with exotic flavours, and locally sourced and imported ingredients, have been giving competition to commercial brands.

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New Delhi: When restaurateurs Pavan Jambagi and Shilpi Bhargava thought of serving a cold dessert at their “home-style south Indian” Carnatic Cafe to beat the scorching heat of Delhi, the idea of off-the-shelf desserts was thrown out of the window. It was the humble beginning of their own ice cream brand.

The husband-wife duo ditched the standard ingredients — nuts and berries — and experimented with an unconventional choice: black pepper. What began as an experiment fleshed into a brand of artisanal ice creams — Jaatre, The Finest Ice Cream.

Speaking of humble beginnings, Delhi-NCR-based Chubby Cheeks Creamery, named after a rescued labrador, forayed into the dessert world due to founder Ayesha Kapur’s love for experimentation with flavours. Gayatri Rattha and Shivanie Mirchandani launched their brand — Minus 30 — inspired by gelato made by their mother.

Gone are the days when a select section of popular brands was the only choice for ice creams, or a family-pack brick would satiate everyone at home. Flavours like vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, pista, tooty fruity and kesar badam are also passé — replaced by a diverse set of gelatos including salted caramel, mint cookie, rum & raisin, Belgian chocolate, green tea matcha, and peanut butter.

In the last couple of years, artisanal ice creams have become the next ‘cool’ thing Dilliwallahs cherish and enjoy.

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Experimenting with the palate

With flavours ranging from palm jaggery & roasted sesame, black pepper & cardamom, fig & balsamic vinegar, to rose strawberry — Jaatre delivers across Delhi NCR.

The name, inspired by Jambagi’s childhood memories from Karnataka, means “village carnival/fair” in most regional languages like Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, and Tamil (with minor variations). But the idea is not to recreate nostalgia, as Jambagi is quick to point out, but rather to create a new palate.

“The motive is to create a new palate made with authentic flavours, spices, and advanced techniques that could be on a par with international standards. The idea is to make Jaatre a global offering,” said Jambagi.

While Jaatre thrives on its 100 per cent vegetarian identity, Chubby Cheeks Creamery swears by the use of eggs in their ice creams, highlighting that “egg yolk” is a natural emulsifier.

Kapur, a self-taught ice-cream-maker, said she makes ice creams “the way God intended ice creams to be made” i.e. just with cream, milk, eggs, salt, and sugar, accompanied with natural ingredients for specific flavours.

“We probably are the only brand that does crème anglaise custard-based ice cream. No preservatives or artificial flavours are used in the preparation,” she said.

The brand delivers to select locations across Delhi-NCR and has grown solely because of word-of-mouth marketing. Kapur rebranded Chubby Cheeks, using her beloved dog as a logo, during the pandemic.

Neither Jambagi, nor Bhargava and Kapur took up a course on ice-cream-making. All three are self-taught.

From the sister duo of Minus 30, Rattha went to Italy to learn more about gelato. What started as a home-delivery initiative in 2016 has grown into a massive distribution network available across more than 300 retail stores in India. As Mirchandani said, Minus 30 “learnt to walk before we could run”.

All three brands use a mix of locally sourced and imported ingredients for their preparations.

Competing for calories

Desserts/ice creams are known to be the first thing axed when anyone goes on a diet, owing to a generous amount of calories. One would assume that artisanal ice creams devoid of emulsifiers, stabilisers, preservatives and artificial flavours would be slightly healthier (than commercial brands), if not healthy per se.

According to Mirchandani from Minus 30, their regular flavours have 30 per cent less sugar resulting in fewer calories. They also serve a vegan category of ice creams.

Jambagi from Jaatre said the brand is mindful of what they use to prepare their ice creams. “We use very little sugar. It is less by design, not by default. We also use raw coconut sugar and palm jaggery,” he added.

Kapur from Chubby Cheeks Creamery preferred to describe their ice creams as “made with wholesome ingredients” rather than claiming them to be healthier. “We use milk and cream — that is going to be high on calories. It’s just [prepared using] pure, wholesome ingredients. They are delicious without artificial flavours,” she said.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

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