This interview was first published in The City Story.
If you Google Sucres Des Terres, you’ll find a link to a pastel-coloured website that tells you the ice cream brand was dreamt up because of wanderlust. But when I first met with Kunali Chandaria Dattoobhai, the ice creamery’s creator, they had no online presence. Not even a Facebook page (there is one now). “We’d purposely kept it really quiet,” said Kunali, “I just wanted it to grow on its own. We still don’t have a business plan to it. It’s really a passion project.”
This passion project came to be as a result of “a happy accident” in October 2013. Kunali was tasked with creating the dessert for a Thai-themed Secret Supper, and she made a Thai basil ice cream as a gingersnap sandwich. It caught the eye of a caterer who asked if she would make the ice cream for him, and she agreed.
There were no plans to start an ice cream brand. Kunali and her husband, Yohaan Dattoobhai, were busy creating their restaurant Kaboom. They had hired some of the staff for Kaboom, but things were taking longer than they expected. So when the opportunity to create ice creams came about, they thought, “Why not?” They started getting regular orders for ice creams through word of mouth and soon had to take a call about whether to stop or make it a full-fledged business. So they took a break, rebranded, and in February 2014 launched the ice creamery Sucres Des Terres.
Kunali creates the flavours—there are seven fixed flavours as well as seasonal flavours—working with what’s available seasonally and what you can find in India. “It’s a lot of digging into flavours I like,” said Kunali,” a lot of digging into my past. A lot of trial and error.” She uses her travels to learn how flavours are used around the world. “Whenever I have the opportunity I’ll go and do things that involve the culinary arts,” said Kunali. “Anywhere I am, I’ll try and figure out if there are any interesting courses. Or even if there’s a place I go to where I really like the candy they make, I’ll say, ‘can I come and work with you for two days?’ And most people are really open to that.”
One place Kunali would love to visit is South America. “I don’t know it enough,” she said. “There’s a lot in terms of flavours, in terms of understanding how they work with different ingredients. It would be really interesting to go down there and learn how they work with things. They work with a lot of spices as well.” But will they be able to convince the Indian customer to try exotic flavoured ice creams? “It’s difficult,” said Kunali. “My bestsellers are salted caramel and chocolate chocolate macaroon, both very, very safe flavours.” I’m partial to their chocolate and candied ginger flavour. Kunali likes the lime sherbet. “Especially in the summer,” she said. “I find it really refreshing because it’s a sherbet and not an ice cream, so it’s a lot lighter on the palate.”
Kunali also collaborates with brands and restaurants to create custom desserts. Sucres Des Terres and Le15 Pâtisserie served a limited edition macaron ice cream sandwich, and she developed the dessert menu for The Bombay Canteen. There’s a community building among Mumbai’s chefs that works together to improve the culinary experience. “It benefits everyone,” said Kunali, “because suddenly you’re talking to everyone about what you’re doing. You’re ideating with them. There is hope to better things. It’s really about what can we do to help each other so that the customer has a better experience.”
Sucres Des Terres has grown leaps and bounds in a short time, and it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. They’ve had problems as diverse as their milk supply stopping overnight to personal criticism from people who didn’t even know them personally. “The entrepreneurial journey has been really difficult,” said Kunali.
“Nobody tells you it’s going to be really difficult. Everybody tells you things like, ‘oh it’s an adrenaline rush and it’s insane when you see everything come together’. It’s also really, really difficult. But it’s really fun. What’s been amazing is it’s really allowed us to do the things that we want to.”
I wanted to know more about the future of Sucres Des Terres. Will they expand to other cities? Will they open an ice cream bar? I had so many questions, but Kunali couldn’t give me answers. “Sucres Des Terres has a life of its own,” she said. “It does what it wants and does it how it wants. We’re not running after anything. We’re letting things come to us.”
Sucres Des Terres offers home delivery between Cuffe Parade and Bandra for a minimum of three jars (or a delivery charge of Rs. 100 for a lower quantity). You can also collect your ice creams from their base in Worli at 2A, Rashid Mansion, Samunder Point, Dr. Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai 400 018. Phone: 99209 85880