Guwahati: Kohuwa Collective Reimagines Slow Food Culture Sustainably
Creating a collaborative community in Guwahati, Kohuwa Collective is a social space where like-minded individuals can engage in dialogues over food prepared from local ingredients making it a must-visit slow food cafe.
Jennifer Shaheen Hussain
As we slowly are getting back to dining out while wrapping the new normal over our nose and mouth — we find that the recently opened Kohuwa Collective – is not just a niche slow food café but has much more to offer Guwahati.
Slow food has always had a reputation for delivering meals that can take tedious hours. Deep pockets of flavour, yes. But, is it really doable on a daily? yes! The creators of Kohuwa Collective, Bidisha Das, and Subhashish Borah make it happen every day by offering an innovative menu along with a wide range of condiments and teas, a tranquil and safe co-workspace, an in-house apparel store, and an inclusive social space where diverse individuals can collaborate and grow together as a community.
Kohuwa stands out for its cosy homely environment with a décor that lends the impression of an airy sunkissed living room. The café opens at 10.30 am and sets the mood for engrossing sessions of discussions and dialogues over Bidisha’s customised menu of reimagined Assamese classics.
Subhashish, an urban planner and designer, and Bidisha, a management professional left their jobs in Ahmedabad to pursue their passion for food, cooking, and design; all rooted in environmental sustainability. Kohuwa’s menu incorporates local and adapted ingredients from Assam and other parts of India’s Northeast and is crafted into delectable contemporary tastes.
While conversing with the perky home cook Bidisha, she said, “Everything on the menu is made from scratch. A soup is made out of the peels of vegetables and fruits. The teas are hand-processed by local tea masters, that have grown in the gardens of small tea growers”.
The menu designed by the duo has an interesting spread of cool brews that are made from local ingredients like Thekera, Otenga, and Tengamora which are dried and prepared without the use of any artificial syrups.
Besides, Kohuwa’s Teas are organically produced by Folklore Tea, a collaborative effort started by Subhashish and Bidisha in 2019 to support small natural tea growers of the region. They believe that buying tea from a local will help sustain the families associated with them. Kohuwa further accommodates regional ingredients in the menu like bora saul (sticky rice), musondori, pani tenga, pithaguri, and even perilla from Manipur.
Bidisha and Subhashish, take their time to prepare the wholesome meals for their patrons, an attribute true to the slow food movement. They serve whole and locally sourced foods emphasising nutrition, zero food waste, and preserving culture and heritage as it relates to food.
The other element that makes Kohuwa a collective is its promotion of the culture of co-working spaces, where like-minded individuals can exchange meaningful dialogues in turn creating a collaborative community.
Coworking spaces are essentially shared workspaces for those looking to escape the isolation of a home office or even a regular coffee shop. However, in Kohuwa, Subhashish hopes for a shared space, for patrons to converse and exchange thoughts and ideas.
Subhashish asserted their thought behind coming up with Kohuwa was never about providing a “platform for individuals to showcase their craft”. He notes the space is for makers who can come, learn, explore, and take the achieved outcomes with them.
“Kohuwa is based on the concept of working and growing together. We have always envisioned that Kohuwa is a learning and collaborative social space,” Subhashish added.
He tells using his expertise in urban designing and planning, and Bidisha’s specialisation in management plus her love for cooking are the ways in which they are trying to “grow this space”.
Notably, the entire decor of every room has been done by the duo. In fact, sticking to their motto of practicing environmental sustainability, perhaps, Kohuwa is one of those few food cafes in the city where you won’t see an air-conditioner functioning. The place also accommodates an in-house store of apparel with a summer vibe and a space where workshops can be conducted.
My visit to Kohuwa made me feel like I was in a safe space where I felt the most comfortable.
On contrary to that comfortable and serene feeling, the cafe’s name “Kohuwa” was derived from Bhupen Hazarika’s song “Kohuwa Bon Mur Oxanto Mon”. Bidisha explained that amid the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, locked inside an apartment, leaving their full-time jobs, and living with anxieties, they went ahead to set up Kohuwa Collective. “The only name then we could think of was Kohuwa! It reflected our state of mind”.
Despite their restlessness, Bidisha and Subhasish have managed to create a space that makes you feel like you’re present in the warm confines of your home in the company of good-hearted informed folks. Kohuwa Collective is should be a must on your to-do list while taking a gastronomic tour in the betel nut city.