It was around ten years ago that Delhi-based couple Shilpi Bhargava and Pavan Jambagi started their first food venture in the region — Carnatic Cafe, which serves home style South Indian Food.
The restaurant, which aims to serve authentic vegetarian food from Karnataka in north India, eventually turned out to be one of the most loved South Indian restaurants in the Delhi-NCR region.
A few years into their business, the duo decided to introduce cold desserts at the restaurant. While they were unsure of what they would serve, they knew it would be something that championed fruits. Eventually, they zeroed in on ice creams.
“India has a variety of fruits like mangoes, sharifas, chikoos, guavas, jamun, and so on, which have been an integral part of the nation’s palate. We decided to explore these flavours through our ice creams, but in a unique way,” elaborates Shilpi.
With this, in 2017, they began serving ice creams that are ‘100 per cent natural and vegetarian’, which later evolved into a brand — Jaatre.
These ice creams are unique not just for their particular combinations of fruit and spice, but also in the way they are served. Keeping sustainability in mind, Jaatre’s ice creams are served only in scraped coconut shells and terracotta tubs.
Nature-inspired ice creams
Shilpi and Pavan, who are keen on farming and agriculture, always take out some time from their busy schedules to travel to the local farms around. They say these journeys helped them understand the nuances of crops, farming, and nature.
“Through our agriculture-centric journeys, we learnt about farming cycles and techniques, as well as the different types of crops, especially fruits, vegetables, and spices that are being cultivated around India,” explains Shilpi, adding that this knowledge helped them while experimenting with different flavours.
When they first started serving their ice creams at the Carnatic Cafe, they had only a few flavours and combinations to offer. “The ice creams were just meant for in-house consumption as an after-meal cold dessert and we didn’t want to buy something off the shelf from the market, as we wanted to ensure quality,” says Pavan, who earlier worked in the ethnography and anthropology field before entering the restaurant business.
He adds, “So to keep up the standard, we have been very conscious about the ingredients we use. We only use real fruits and don’t add any flavours or colours. We also make sure that the sugar levels in our ice creams are very little so that we could taste the real flavour of that particular fruit or ingredient. In the beginning, it was just two flavours — black pepper and cardamom, and rose strawberry — as we didn’t have the capacity to bring up a lot of flavours at that point.”
There is a childhood nostalgia that’s linked to the name ‘Jaatre’, says Pavan. “‘Jaatre’ means carnival in most regional languages like Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, and Tamil, with some minor variations. For me, my memory of having anything cold like ice is during the village fair. Hence, the name,” he says.
The idea to expand came from the outpouring of love they received from their customers for the ice creams. “Because we were already in the food business, it was easy for us to understand the nuances of ingredients and the interplay of flavours. This helped us a lot while experimenting, and we gradually gained enough confidence to come up with more flavours and combinations,” he says.
“We didn’t want to use the usual flavours like nuts, berries, chocolate, etc, since we were looking for an entirely new palate. At Jaatre, we try to come up with a flavour palate that is a mix of both Indian and international,” he adds.
Some unique flavours that Jaatre offers include palm jaggery and roasted sesame, black pepper and cardamom, chocolate orange, vanilla blueberry, raw coconut sugar and roasted almond, fig and balsamic vinegar, kokum and cumin sorbet, mascarpone and cocoa. They also offer several classics like vanilla pod, pistachio, hazelnut, and dark chocolate, as well as fresh fruit flavours like ratnagiri hapus mango, jamun, pink guava, cherry, and chikoo.
Other than innovative flavours, Jaatre also stands out in their sustainable approach of serving ice creams in eco-friendly containers.
“Ours is a South Indian restaurant and we use a lot of coconut. So when we started serving ice creams at our restaurants, we decided to upcycle those coconut shells to use them as serving bowls,” says Shilpi.
As business expanded, they had to also account for sustainable packaging for home delivery. “We were very particular that we do not want to contribute to non-biodegradable waste. In the beginning, we had to use paper tubs, but we eventually came up with the idea of terracotta tubs. I am happy to say that we don’t use single-use plastic or even paper right now,” she elaborates, adding that they sell around 600 to 700 scoops a day.
“I am also glad that many of our customers are innovatively using these terracotta tubs at their homes — as pen stands, chai cups, plant saplings, and to set curd,” she smiles.
Dr Sandhya Bhalla, a regular customer at Jaatre, says, “The ice cream is outstanding, and one can feel and taste the real ingredients that go into it. I also love the terracotta container in which they give the ice cream. I reuse that cup for setting curd at home. I order from there very often.”
Jaatre has now set up a small unit to make these terracotta tubs. “It got very expensive to outsource the tubs, and we didn’t want to increase the cost of our products because of packaging,” adds Pavan.
Jaatre currently has an outlet at Lodhi Colony in New Delhi, and also delivers through different online platforms such as Zomato and Swiggy.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)