The last 10 years have been a very interesting phase for sweet scape in Kolkata. Like all other cities, Kolkata also has undergone its share of changes in food and entertainment. From the first multiplex in Forum Elgin Road to multiple multiplexes throughout the city, from restaurants primarily focused around Park Street area to now cropping up in the oddest of locales, from a single Barista in Park Street to multiple Cafe Coffee Days and other cafes spread across the city, it has all happened.
The effect of this revolution in the city and its people has had an effect on the age old traditional sweet shops. All of a sudden, the influx of cafes and change in the economy meant the young crowd and some old too, started shifting to the cafes, where the pastries and the brownies started taking over from classic rosogollas and sandesh.
The humble neighbourhood sweet shop, with gigantic non air-conditioned display unit, with an array of sweets, a huge refrigerator with earthen pots containing the famous mishti doi, a wooden bench where one can sit at times to have the sweets, was the pre-evolution phase. The innovations were less and almost 80 percent of the sweets offered across the sweet shops were the same. It was during this phase, when the scenario started changing. Gradually the look changed and they started getting into a retail mode. Some of the biggest brand names like Nolin Ch Das, K.C. Das, Sen Mahashoy and others, started branching out from their place of inception in North Kolkata to South and Central Kolkata. Ganguram and Sons, Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick opened up branches like private banks opening their retail branches.
This was only the genesis. A massive wave of innovation started showing in the new swanky display units. Traditional sweets started drifting towards infused ones. So if a mango sandesh was a traditional one from Balaram Mullick, then a mango gelato sandesh is something which they offer now. A traditional chocolate sandesh which has been present for over 100 years got reinvented with invasion of a famous chocolate manufacturer giant and variants like chocolate black currant, chocolate vanilla and other flavours came in. As a part of the ongoing world cup in 2014 there were sweets introduced in the names of Brazilian Samba, Spanish Tikitaka and Italian Defence.
Haldiram and sons have a large sprawling food court in almost all their outlets, where one can now spend some time with the traditional Indian chai or coffee along with some sweets or savouries. K.C. Das also has a smart sitting area in their Esplanade shop and soon all other brands are catching up. Air-conditioned shops, smiling counter sales staff and focus on advertising and all forms of media has definitely brought the sweetness back in the mishti and mishti scene of Kolkata.
Photo credit: Anindya Sundar Basu
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