‘Made by Happy Mountain women’ is mentioned on each Bhuira product; to find out more about the story behind the label we catch up with Rebecaa Maria Vaz of Bhuira Jams, a jam making business founded by her mother in law, Linnet Mushran in Himachal Pradesh, 17 years ago.
As an food entrepreneur, tell us what Bhuira Jams is all about?
Today the general consumer movement is towards Real, Fresh, Natural and Traditional foods. Bhuira Jams is a community driven all women organisation and strives to bring the freshness of the fruit and the charm of the mountains to your breakfast table in the most natural way possible. For the past 17 years, Bhuira prides itself in being the premier choice of food connoisseurs, slow food followers, the expat community and the health concious audience for Superior Quality, Handmade, Preservative free Jams from Himachal Pradesh.
About the maker and the village communities at Bhuira Jams. Farm to market. What’s involved in the making of Bhuira Jams?
Linnet Mushran, 71, is Bhuira’s founder and owner and she likes to called herself “an accidental jam maker.” Over the last 3 years I, Rebecca Mushran, Linnet’s daughter in law, have taken over the business to build a sustainable lively hood for the women at the factory and continue to make fabulous Jams. The jams are the pride of our all women workforce. It all started with the little apple orchard that Linnet bought to spend time away from the city. One year when the apples began to fall she made apple jelly just the way her mother did, in Sommerset, England. She called in a favour from a friend and placed them at a single store in Kasauli. The word soon spread like wildfire amongst Delhi’s little expat circle. She began to produce more varieties of jam and jellies based on the seasons with the help of a few women from the village. Bhuira Jams soon became a source of local pride besides providing employment to the girls and women of the village of Bhuira. The Jam factory has created a ripple effect as it touches the lives of most families in the village, from the women to their children’s futures. The small farmer who has one or two fruit trees can’t really box and sell his produce in the market. So they often walk up to the factory with their baskets to fetch a fair price for their produce. The women love the fact that the jam was named after their village and get a real kick out of hearing about how people buy Bhuira Tomato Chutney and the Kashmiri Mango Chutney to take back to their families in the US, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore etc. Significantly, people in different parts of the world now relate to this tiny little village because of its story in a bottle.
Describe a typical day at Bhuira Jams.Tell us about your products that you propose to showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart.
A crisp morning at Bhuira at 6000 feet begins with the ringing of a brass bell announcing the arrival of the women. Some stepping off the local bus and some walking up hill for over an hour to get to work. Himachali women are tough and resilient and are always smiling. This is their trademark and we observe that their heart and soul is into making these jams and as a result making their village popular. Based on the season we have fruit arriving at our door step from local farmers as well as truck loads with selected fruits from the local mandi to grade, sort and process. Our entire process is handmade, right from the sorting, washing, cutting, making, bottelling, labelling and despatch. We write on our bottles ‘made by Happy Mountain women’ which is a true fact. Our outer carton cases will also identify the specific employees who have invested their efforts into ensuring that the product that ships out meets our product specifications. Sometimes they have the radio on or sing local tunes while processing the fruit. It is a truly delightful site to watch them make jams with so much passion, an attitude which is mostly infectious! The jams are made in small 2kg batches only and not on large tubs as you might imagine from a factory. We like to keep the handmade process as close to the way our mothers made jam at home back in the day. There is something so charming about opening a bottle of jam and having the burst of fruity flavour hit you as you dig in and scoop out chunks of fruit. Our women workforce loves our jams and we make it exactly the way we like to eat them.
What’s your favourite pick with Bhuira Jams?
Rajgarh, often referred to as the Peach bowl of Asia, abounds in excellent stone-fruit (apricot, plum, peaches) as well as apples pears guavas, kiwis, lemons (highly aromatic ‘Gal-Gal’) and wild raspberries. Its strategic location allows Bhuira Jams to take full advantage of this freshness and profusion of local fruit. Apricot, Black Cherry, Plum and Apple Cinnamon Jelly would have to stand out as being product of the land and thats why they feature as my favourite. Since i was baking earlier, I know that the apricot, peach and strawberry is widely used as alternate to fresh fruits in delicious cakes and pastries too. L Nitin Chordia from Cocoatrait, introduced me to how curd (yoghurt) is consumed after each meal in the south Indian states. He mentioned that a lot of people mix a spoon of the black grape and black cherry preserves directly into a cup of yoghurt and a naturally delicious fruit yougurt is ready in a jiffy! I must confess that from then on, I have gotten to enjoy my Yoghurts too!
What’s the best thing about being a food entrepreneur? What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten along the way in building your business?
If you are passionate about food, it can take you on a marvellous journey. I used to run a Bakery of my own ‘The Baking Tray’, in Mumbai for 5 years before i took over the family Jam business. With being a part of the food industry for the past 8 years i have learned that you need to constantly monitor your product for consistency and Quality. Customers today are very aware and particular about their preferences. They choose BHUIRA JAMS for a reason and we respect that choice. While we are only always compared to imported jams, we believe that If you stay true to your product, your brand, your employees and your story, you have a future carved out for you.
Your advice for aspiring food artisans / food entrepreneurs?
When I began my first venture I knew that in order to stay ahead of the game, I needed to be Authentic, Consistent and of Top Quality and word would get around. An honest product will always find its market and quite easily reach the right consumer (with minimal effort). I truely believe this and it is the best advice i can give.
We have been in the market in Delhi and Himachal for the past 17 years and finally the time is right to come down south as we increase our reach to selected outlets in Mumbai. It is so exciting for Bhuira Jams manufactured in the mountains in Himachal Pradesh, to make its journey all the way to your breakfast table in Chennai. Our collaboration with
L Nitin Chordia from Cocoatrait who curates handpicked gourmet products from across geographies and his persistence/insistence and energy that Bhuira should be enjoyed in the south of India have made this stretch possible and we would love to hear what Chennai thinks of our Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and Chutney’s. Looking forward to seeing you at the ‘By Hand from The Heart’ 2016 : Maker’s Market”, where we will demonstrate making of a jam using a local variety of fruit and presenting our range of products.
Bhuira Jams, Himachal Pradesh will be at the By Hand From The Heart: MAKERS MARKET – 18th Edition
Friday – Saturday, 5th – 6th August, 2016
10:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m
Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park
132, T.T.K Road, Alwarpet, Chennai – 600018, Tamil Nadu. India