Runima Biswas is surrounded by raw mangoes, sugarcane, food thermometers, refractometers, and a gamut of contraptions that she has never really seen before.
“It is like an episode of Breaking Bad unfolding in my kitchen,” she laughs, holding up the PH meter she is using to find an optimum level of acidity.
A former professional from the retail, and food and beverage industry, Runima and her business partner Irfan Husain, a former personnel of the Indian Armed Forces, have just launched Fresh Crush.
The brand offers sugarcane juice infused with ingredients such as betel leaves, Mexican mint (karpuravalli), nannari (sarsaparilla), ginger and tulsi among others. “We are growing karpuravalli and tulsi in my garden,” she adds.
This is such a basic idea and almost everybody loves sugarcane juice, says Runima adding that, however, people have often been concerned about hygiene, the quality and storage of ice, pollution by the roadside…
“At Fresh Crush we do not add any artificial additives, sugar, water or ice. The juice is made using a cold-press machine,” she says.
Operating out of a 100-square feet space in Palavakkam, Runima and Irfan want it to be a neighbourhood “juice kadai” where anybody can just walk in, grab a drink and leave. There are passers-by, walkers, cyclists, sometimes cars stop by and grab a few bottles. And then “there is always the Swiggy-Zomato crowd too,” she adds.
At any point, the little outlet stores 75 kilograms of sugarcane. Each lot yields a different quantity. On numerous occasions, the duo has had to sprint up to Runima’s house nearby to bring in reinforcements.
“There’s always a few extra kilograms of sugarcane in my kitchen,” says Runima, adding that her life has been overrun by sugarcane. “Ever since March, Irfan and I have been drinking different combinations of this juice. Our neighbours aren’t spared either,” she adds.
Fresh Crush relies on local vendors for their stock of sugarcane. They are looking to branch out and set up shop in crowded localities such as Purasaiwalkam, Sowcarpet, and Pondy Bazaar.
There is more on the anvil. Runima and Irfan are also working on another brand Tareca, that makes packaged sugarcane juice especially for institutions, super markets and other collective units. So far they have six variants including sugarcane with orange, strawberries, and dragon fruit.