An ice cream and chai shop called Crèmerie Meetha is all set to land in Park-Ex this summer.
Owners Deexit Patel and Aakruti (also surnamed Patel) now have the keys to 787A de Liège Ouest, near where Deexit grew up. “It’s important for me to give back,” he says. The couple, who is also engaged to be married, is planning reasonably priced scoops, pints, and soft-serve, as well as chai and Indian-inspired pastries.
Based on Indian desserts, ice cream flavours will include gulab jamun, a deep-fried, milk-based sweet, and jalebi, an intricately laced deep-fried pastry, both including little bits of the sweets and a homemade cardamom-saffron syrup. Then there’s falooda, a refreshing rose syrup and sweet basil seed flavour; elaichi pista with cardamom and pistachio; and mango rasmalai, combining the fragrant fruit and a creamy, pistachio and saffron-infused milk sweet.
Deexit Patel and Aakruti have been running popular Tiffin Montreal Indian street food catering business for the past several years. Influenced by their family’s Gujarati food traditions and annual visits to India, they began the business by offering a mobile pani puri stall for events. The crunchy little spheres filled with diced potatoes, chickpeas, and spicy cumin water were a big hit — and they made for the perfect side hustle to Deexit’s day job in the banking world.
But once COVID shut down wedding parties and other gatherings, Tiffin Montreal’s contracts were cancelled — even their own wedding had to be postponed — and the catering business was put on hold.
So the couple bought a small ice cream machine and started experimenting at home with Indian-inspired flavours. The first was Masala Chai, topped with Parle-G biscuits, an iconic Indian cookie. They brought samples of the ice cream to friends and family, asking if the flavour was on point and what they could do to improve. There was always one question in return: Can we get another pint?
After their Masala Chai success, Deexit and Aakruti began churning out other flavours and selling them on Instagram in pints or artfully decorated ice cream cakes (think rose petals, or silver leaf and pistachio crumble) in 8- or 9-inch sizes, feeding anywhere from five to ten people.
The couple’s families have been instrumental in Tiffin’s success. Longstanding friends, they all immigrated from India in the early ‘80s and met in Canada. “They never expected us to date, let alone plan to marry and start a business together. But here we are, four years later,” says Aakruti, an aspiring journalist.
“Growing up, we had a complicated relationship with our culture,” she adds. “As we’ve grown older, we’ve become more connected to it, and we’re proud to share it with others. We need our family’s help and support; Tiffin and Meetha would be nothing without them.”
The bright graphic design, created by Aakruti’s brother (and Deexit’s best friend) Brijesh, gives a retro-Indian truck painting feel to the branding. And their moms have been extensively involved: Deexit’s mother, Sheela, a small business owner and 18-year resident of Park-Ex, has been instrumental in sourcing ingredients across the city and the globe, finding the best ginger for the chai masala ice cream (the smaller, more dry variety) and getting rose petals from India for the falooda flavour. “Deexit always knew exactly what he wanted: the highest quality,” she says with a laugh. That’s why he calls her his “inventory specialist and special shopper,” providing moral support and strategic business advice.
Aakruti’s mother, Champa, has her own specialty which was featured in Tiffin Montreal’s catering and will hopefully be on Crèmerie Meetha’s post-summer menu: khaman, a spongy, savoury cake made of chickpea flour and garnished with mustard seeds and coriander leaf. “Whatever your kids are happy to do, just support them however you can,” Champa declares.
“After a meal, we say ‘Kuchh meetha ho jaye’, or ‘shall we have something sweet?’” Deexit says. “Through Meetha, which literally means ‘sweet” and is my maternal great-grandfather’s name, we’re going to be able to offer treats and a pick-me-up cup of chai to people in the neighbourhood.”
Crèmerie Meetha is slated to open this summer at 787A de Liège Ouest.