Opening the paan dora's box
CHENNAI: The sharp bitterness of the betel leaf mingling with the sweet gulkand, rich dates and the zing of the cherry on top — there is no greater satisfaction than finishing off a hefty meal (the kind that leads you to flop on your back as you sigh heavily) with a paan for dessert. The rollercoaster of flavours makes it a perfect one-bite refresher. But, whose onus is it to go to the paan store when everyone lays in a stupor? It is at moments like these that you wish the paan could come to you, and with The Betel Leaf Co, it does.
India’s first online FSSAI certified paan delivery venture, the company began in Bengaluru in 2019 and in merely 24 months, has expanded to several other cities, including Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Vizag, and now, Chennai. The idea began with owner Prem Raheja’s dietary requirements as a result of extensive travelling and eventual bloating. “My dietician recommended paan after every meal but I had to be very particular while ordering or else the taste would not be consistent. My wife and mother didn’t feel comfortable going to the store. Paan has always been a male-dominated purchase and all this triggered the conception of a company where the paan can be delivered to you,” shares Prem.
At The Betel Leaf Co, you can subscribe to their models and mark preferable dates to have a set of paans delivered to your doorstep in individual flushed packets, ensuring hygiene. Your selected dates and time are notified to the company two hours prior for promising freshness. “We decided to make a simple product, paan, sophisticated yet convenient. Our model saves you from the hassle of an OTP, card details and such. And we don't want it to just be consumed at special occasions; we are targeting the regular consumer so we have kept the options affordable,” he adds.
A model unique and flexible, however, can only sustain a customer’s interest for so long. After all, the real test comes down to taste. The dark green packaging with the minimalist logo made a great first impression. The flushed packets it contained, too, gave the feel of a luxurious product. We had the opportunity to try myriad flavours — some staples, some not so common.
The Magai saada paan, popular in Bihar, and Calcutta saada paan brought no surprises, tasting exactly how one would expect. The latter travelled well across the palate with its crunchy mix. The crunch was introduced again with the Dry fruits meetha paan, which was of a mild-tasting and juicy variety. Those seeking almond notes would find this pleasurable. The Nauratan meetha paan is one for mint lovers.
The overwhelming mint taste could clear up one's sinuses but did not spoil the taste. The recipe to beat, however, was the Exotic Coffee meetha paan, which was juicy and offered a burst of flavours on the tongue. The next few options did not stand a chance against this favourite. Dry and powdery, the Meenakshi meetha paan was hard to or swallow after a few seconds and the Dark Chocolate coated paan was a confusing experience with pungent combination of the sweet filling and the bitter chocolate exterior. The Blueberry meetha paan that followed was not as aggressive but seemed mildly perfume-like. Then came the paan-filled dates that had little filling and, in that sense, were slightly deceiving, but we weren’t particularly complaining.
A creative curation
While not all flavours wowed us, the journey of curating these was interesting. "Our flavours are based on cravings after a meal. For instance, if you eat Italian food, you might crave tiramisu as a dessert. That's where the Coffee paan came from. Some people like to end meals with cognac or Irish cream, and this inspired our liquor paans (that are completely alcohol free). Or let's say you have meat, you may want some dry fruits or could try our Dry fruits paan," explains Prem.
The Betel Co also offers a range of paans for children with nostalgic flavours of one's childhood such as Cookie Crumble meetha, Jemmy Gems meetha, Choco Raspberry meetha and Rainbow Sprinkles meetha. So, the next time you're in your after-meal trance, even your kids can order your paan and perhaps, even join in!
Order paans in boxes of 4 from Rs 173 or betel chocolate bars for Rs 170.
To place order, visit thebetelleafco.com.