Apr 13, 2018 | 7 Mins
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Swiss cheese and Ghanian chocolate are tempting additions to any kitchen cupboards, but you don't have to look beyond India's borders to enjoy truly high-quality foods. A new breed of entrepreneurs is working with local communities to promote organic goods that are procured via fair-trade practices and that preserve traditional ways of production. Here's a few to get you started. (P.S. - They make great presents, too!)
"Handmade in Himachal"- that's what Bhuira's jams and preserves promise to be. The company was set up in 1999 to produce fresh, handcrafted jams, preserves, marmalades & jellies from fresh fruits found in the small village of Bhuira, Himachal Pradesh, while helping the women of the village find sustainable sources of employment in its factory. Get a taste of the mountains when you enjoy Bhuira's green mango chutney, cinnamon apple jelly and lemon marmalade.
The medical benefits of honey are well-known, but what may not be as popular are the varieties. Most of us are familiar with the standard store-bought honey but there's a whole world of delicious honey flavours just waiting to be explored. A great place to sample these kinds of honey is Under The Mango Tree, a hybrid social enterprise that aims to improve the lives of farmers by providing direct access to consumers. The company encourages farmers to maintain bee boxes on their farmers for two reasons: to facilitate better pollination of the farmer's crops and to create a second source of revenue in the form of the honey produced by these busy insects. The certified organic honey comes in flavours like eucalyptus, litchi, jamun and sweet clover. And the best part is that most of the proceeds go straight back to helping the farmers.
Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of India's famed tea plantations to serve up delicious brews to chai lovers. Delhi-based Jugmug Thela offers tea blends and masalas like the Chatpatea powder, with tangy spices and black salt masala, to add a zing to your lemon tea. The ruby-coloured Three Flower Tea delivers fruity flavours with a little tart thanks to the combination of rose, hibiscus and pomegranate flower. You can also but a brass kettle and munchies to create a perfect chai break. One more reason to try Jugmug Thela's teas is that most of the blends have health benefits from stimulating metabolism to boosting immunity.
Image Source: Jugmug Thela
Another brand that's putting out flavoursome chais is Tea Trunk, started by tea sommelier Snigdha Manchanda. A playful blue elephant can be found on metal dabbas and that contain flavours like chilli chai, saffron kahwa green tea and activated charcoal matcha green tea. The brand's Club Cammellia rewards your tea obsession with points earned on purchases that can be redeemed at the online store.
Image Source: Tea Trunk
The next time your sweet tooth needs some satisfying ditch the regular chocolates brands and try something more local. Many Indian companies infuse familiar tastes like Kashmiri kahwa or tutti fruti or chikki into their foreign-sourced chocolate creating interesting flavours, but some go a step further. Labels like Earth Loaf and Mason & Co. even source their cacao beans from within the country, emphasizing the bean-to-bar philosophy.
Mysore-based Earth Loaf gets its beans from a single estate of Varanashi Farms in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka, which was the first organically certified farm in India. The distinctively Indian flavours include coconut, ginger and gondhoraj and mango, red capsicum and chilli. Earth Loaf's handmade bars come wrapped in beautiful, colourful sheets that are screen printed in Mysore itself.
Image Source: Earth Loaf
Mason & Co uses an all-woman team from around Auroville, in Pondicherry, to sort, roast, grind, make and package their single-origin chocolate. Every step of the process takes place in-house, allowing for nuanced flavours. Try the coconut masala chai bar or the zesty orange dark chocolate bar.
A new breed of cheese-makers is out to show us that there's a lot more to cheese than just the processed versions we find in grocery stores. The Farm, just outside Chennai, started out as a dairy farm in 1974, with hundreds of cows and buffaloes providing milk and dairy products; vegetables and rice were grown, too. Today The Farm has opened its doors to the public, welcoming guests to try its organic produce and delicious cheeses like buffalo mozzarella, ricotta and feta. There's also the Madras Jack and Peppery Madras Jack that is sold in addition to preserves, pickles and baked goods.
Himalayan Cheese combines the tastes of the mountains and the Netherlands by using Kashmiri milk and Dutch cheese-making techniques to produce delicious cheeses. The company sells three main kinds of cheese: cheddar, the local Kashmiri kalari (nicknamed the mozzarella of Kashmir by some) and Gouda with variations like walnut gouda and fenugreek gouda. You can choose the cheese based on its age, with vintage varieties over a year old.
Image Source: Himalayan Cheese
It's no secret that India has some of the world's best coffee. Rather than get your caffeine fix from your local cafe, why not try brewing some at home? It's never been easier to get good coffee beans from around the country, with many companies retailing in supermarkets and delivering to your homes. The Indian Bean sources coffee from single farms across the country. The Arabica beans are treated differently in each farm, leading to an interesting choice of flavours that can be at times fruity, sweet and slightly spicy.
Those looking for single-origin coffee should try Halli Berri's brews. Halli Berri loosely translates into a "village full of heart and soul", echoing what it hopes its coffees inspire. Sourced from a 70-year-old estate in Chikmagalur, Halli Berri's Arabica beans are grown in a way that doesn't disturb the local ecology. Unlike other plantations, these plants are grown in the shade of jungle trees and roasted in small batches to allow for more flavourful experiments.