Kochi: ‘Nadan charayam’ or the countryside arrack of Kerala is making Canada tipsy, drop by drop. Two youths from Kerala have launched a liquor brand called Taika in Canada. It is an artisanal arrack, made using an age-old family recipe.
Launched in December 2022 at a New Year celebration, Taika has already become popular among customers and is eyeing a global expansion.
Ajith Padmakumar from Vaikom in Kottayam and Sajeesh Joseph from Fort Kochi are the co-founders of Taika Distillery Inc. which produces the eponymous liquor brand. Ajith, who landed in Canada in 2009 with an MBA, has already established himself as an entrepreneur with multiple business interests while Sajeesh has been working as a chef in the North American country for a few years.
The idea of Taika struck the two friends during the Covid lockdown when Sajeesh tried a brew with his grandfather's recipe. Brewing alcohol for personal use is allowed in Canada. Taika was born as a brand as Ajith and Sajeesh explored the possibilities of marketing the ‘spirit’ of Kerala.
Arrack has for almost three decades been part of Kerala’s collective nostalgia ever since the then AK Antony-led government banned it in 1996.
Ajith told Onmanorama that Malayalis in Canada make up a major part of their customers while the traditional spirit has evinced also interest among Canadians. He said they use raw fruits, dates, jaggery and spices to brew their arrack. The company has leased a distillery in Ontario and the production is done as per demand. A bottle of 750 ml costs 55 Canadian dollars (approximately Rs 3,350).
“Being an unaged spirit, it takes only 30 days to brew Taika. At the moment, we focus only on production based on demand,” Ajith said.
Taika is sold online through the e-commerce platform of a local delivery partner. Taika consists of 46 per cent alcohol.
Though the company received the licence for production and sales in 2020, Taika was introduced in the market only after two years. Ajith and Sajeesh kept correcting the recipe till they found the right taste for the potential market. The recipe was revised after the soft launch at the New Year party also based on feedback from those who had it.
Taika’s target to appeal to the growing Malayali diaspora is evident from the insignia on the bottle. It has ‘Nadan Charayam’ written in Malayalam. The label also features an old-style Kerala State Road Transportation Corporation bus, an elephant decked up with a parasol and coconut trees – all cultural icons of the south Indian state.
Ajith said they decided to name their company Taika as the word is a derivation from tiger. Ajith wanted to name his brand after an animal as he was inspired by Kraken, a popular rum named after a fictional octopus.
Will Taika make its way to Bevco?
Taika has an ambitious expansion plan which also includes a wish to find itself a place in its homeland, Kerala. The company is trying to hold talks with the Kerala State Beverages Corporation Ltd seeking permission to sell in Kerala.
The company has also applied for a licence to sell its products through the outlets of Canada’s Liquor Control Board. It is also eyeing the European and Dubai markets.
In the coming years, Taika also wants to expand its products by introducing its versions of gin, vodka and rum.
Taika is not the first Kerala hooch to hit the Canadian market. In 2021, a brand called Mandakini, an unaged spirit from sugarcane extract, was launched in the North American country by a group of Malayalis.