Tea! India's Beloved National Drink
For millions of Indians, a hot cup of chai (or three!) is integral to their day. Whether it's waking up with it or having a cuppa in the evening with family or friends, tea has become entwined with our way of life. Our relationship with tea goes way back but continues to remain strong. India is today the second largest producer of tea in the world just behind China, and consumes over 70 per cent domestically! That's a lot of tea!
As with everything in India, the flavour profile changes by region with variations in the type of tea leaves preferred, the spices used and how the tea itself is made.
Same Joy, New Forms!
The traditional cup of chai, tea boiled with milk and spices like ginger, cardamom, cloves or cinnamon remains a top favourite. But changing palates and lifestyles has brought about some interesting shifts in tea preferences and consumption. A major trend has been the uptick of interest in premix teas and herbal teas (tea infused with herbs such as tulsi, mulethi and peppermint).
Thought to be inferior to the real thing, premix tea was for long something to be had when there was no choice perhaps while travelling or in office. But with busy schedules and more people looking for fuss-free ways to make tea, premix tea has become a reliable substitute. It has shed the image of being unhealthy and being less flavourful as more and more companies are introducing innovative and exciting products.
Chaika Premix Instant Teas:
One of the new tea brands making waves in the market is Chaika which offers instant tea premixes in a range of flavours. You will find it offers chai blends that evoke teas unique to different parts of the country. For instance, the Dhaba Chai is the classical masala chai you find in any roadside chai shop or dhaba in Northern India, while Kolkata Kadak brings the taste of the city's special tea. Currently, Chaika offers six flavours which are available in boxes of 10 single-serve sachets. Gift boxes with a mixed selection of flavours and corporate packs are also available. Making tea from the sachets is pretty easy: just mix into a cup of hot water, and voila, your tea is ready!
Within just a short time after its launch, Chaika has become a success thanks to its products rivalling the flavours of regular tea. We talked to the brand's co-founders, Aradhita Agarwal and Devanshi Chitlangia, to know more about why they chose to go the premix route and their journey since then.
We have converted quite a few coffee lovers, so just try it, give it a go, and we assure you, you won't be disappointed.
Aradhita Agarwal, Co-founder, Chaika
Q & A with Aradhita & Devanshi: A Fresh Offering to Appeal Tea Lovers of Today
- Q. Tell us about your background
- Aradhita: Both of us worked in Singapore in high pressure jobs in the banking and finance sector. Although we both come from tea families, our families have had tea estates going back decades, we didn’t see ourselves working in the family business.
Devanshi: I would always say that I am never going to work in the family tea business, but it’s a popular belief that if you say you will never do something, there is a high likelihood that you will wind up doing it! For me the wake up call was when my grandfather fell ill, he used to run the business and after him I realised I had to step in.
- Q. Do you have a special tea moment or story you’d like to share?
- Aradhita: Having tea was family time. I remember the whole family sitting down together to have tea when I was a child. All the grown-ups were served this aromatic masala chai and I would be given milk, and I would wonder what is this secret club for grown-ups!
Devanshi: I would have chai with my grandfather when I was 3 years old and we would watch cricket, I don’t anymore, and it was a special time for us.
- Q. How good are you at making tea?
- Aradhita: Not very good! In theory I know how it is made but I don’t ever make it right, I always get something wrong like the milk to water proportion or the sugar proportion.
Devanshi: I still can’t make a cup of tea! It takes 20 minutes to make a cup of tea and I don’t have the patience for that. I recently got married and my husband was telling my mother that she should teach me how to make tea!
- Q. Why make a tea premix and how did you go about creating it?
- Devanshi: When we were in Singapore, something that we both, Aradhita and I, did miss was Masala Chai, and that caught us to launch chai cup because we felt like Chai is something both of us resonate to. It's a part of who we are; we grew up with. We miss it, and we love it. But we didn't know how to make it. There are many people like us who love tea but don't have the time or don't know how to make it. And that got us to move back. We spent some time understanding what the tea industry is like. Worked with our families, understood it, and met the vendors. We worked a lot on the branding aspect because while we realize people are moving more towards green tea, we wanted to keep and bring traditional masala chai in a new convenient way. That is what our USP is, which we are working on.
- Q. How well does it pass the taste test?
- Aradhita: So, not to blow our own trumpet, because we are in the tea industry, we have many friends who come from tea families who have their tea estates. I know for a fact that they used Chaika in their office or drinking in their houses, instead of their own tea estate's teas. For us, that's the biggest positive feedback that we can ever get.
- Q. How long did it take to arrive at that magic formula?
- Aradhita: We started working on it in maybe April of 2019, and as we said, we got the first box ready at the end of October 2019. It was a lot of trial and error; we did many taste tests, we had like 500 to 600 minimum people to try out when it was just before the production stage to get feedback. We did like the blind tasting of Chaika versus other brands on the market to get feedback from the customers as to what they like, what they didn't like, which one did they prefer. So it took quite a while; we are glad that we spent that much time and effort getting the mix right before launching the product.
- Q. How is Chaika different from other premixes in the market?
- Aradhita: One of the things is that we have taken to account the regional preferences of the customers. Like Devanshi had mentioned before, the thought process behind our flavors is like, you know, we have a tea from Kolkata. Tea like Bombay Cutting Chai, Highway Dhabas Tea of North India. So we have tea from all sorts of regional preferences. It's not like one standard masala chai like one taste suit all palates kind of thing. Because India is not like that. India has many kinds of masala chai that is one of the factors. And another fact is we would also like to iterate is that for us being in the tea industries for so many years, we ensure that all the tea is like the best quality of tea comes from our estates. On top of that, we really look into the sourcing of our spices, and we source the finest quality from Kerala. We are very involved in the ingredients that go into our tea. And we believe that the best quality of ingredients is what translates into the sought of taste.
- Q. What steps do you take to ensure consistent quality?
- Devanshi: These are all machine blended and premix. So there is a clear formula behind each of them, and there are tastings done at every point to ensure the formula is made.
Product/Service Showcase: Chaika Instant Premix Tea
Diet Tea, No Sugar Added Masala Chai
A newly introduced flavour, the Diet Tea is a special no sugar formulation that ensures you get to drink your favourite beverage without the calories. Its masala flavour ensures that none of the zing is lost! Get this for Rs. 140 for a box of 10 sachets.
Valentine's Day Gift Box
Bored of the standard gifts? Give the gift of rejuvenating cups of tea with this option from Chaika which offers four sachets of five flavours, packed into an elegant gift box. The box is an ideal gift whether for your boss on Diwali, or your sweetheart on Valentine's Day. This option is available for Rs. 390 on the site.
Lift your spirits with the refreshing flavours of Firangi Chai. The tea blends together lemongrass and ginger resulting in an aromatic, delightful beverage that you can sip as you work or when you sit down to unwind with a book. The box comes with 10 sachets of the premix and is available for Rs. 140 on the site.
Where Can You Find Them?chaika.in
The Journey So Far and Upcoming Plans
- Q: You have some unique flavors. Could you tell us about the process of creating them?
- Devanshi: What we did is we just went old school, and we realized which the regional preferences of tea in India are and which ones are popular. When you go to Bombay, you have that Bombay Cutting Chai, which is sweet, and tangy, and a little spicy. We decided this is one Chai we should do. The second thing is when coming to Calcutta; we realized that the share market chai is really popular. It was like the cardamom tea, and we added the Kolkata Kadak Chai. Then when you o Northern India, they have the Dhaba Chai, which has adrak in it, so we decided to have a tea that resonates the Dhaba chai with ginger in it. Traditionally, if you look in the Metro stations in India, they serve that lemon-honey tea, so we called that the Platform Chai, and we launched that. I think a lot of our flavors are just derived from old school traditional recipe, the popular areas which were known for decades.
- Q. Are you coming up with new flavors?
- Aradhita: So we just launched a new flavor maybe a week ago, that was our diet tea, a no-sugar-added premix. That's a quintessential masala chai but without any added sugar because we were getting a lot of demand from our customers to have a sugar-free tea because I think India is the home for the largest number of diabetics in the world, and on top of that I think the growing number of people in the country who are interested in their fitness and health and all of that. That was the process behind developing the no sugar added tea.
Devanshi: However, the whole procedure took a while for the no sugar added tea because sugar works kind of like salt. It's a flavour enhancer. So it took a while for us to ensure that the flavour of the masalas came out despite being no added sugar in the tea. So that was our latest launch, and definitely, we would be launching more flavours soon. Probably like a few launches in the summer.
- Q. What is next for Chaika?
- Aradhita: I think we have a lot of ideas and definitely something exciting is going to come out in the summer. We want to let that be a surprise. But something that we can reveal is that we are going to have a very exciting Valentine's Day gift tradition, which we are going to launch on our website around a week to ten days. It's already in production, and we are very excited to reveal the v day edition to all Chaika fans. We are just waiting for our first box basically to come out. We could potentially send some photos as well.
- Q. What are some challenges you have faced with Chaika?
- Devanshi: Being two women, and we were working with a lot of vendors that were male-dominated spaces in India. Be it, vendors, be it factory stuff, labors, etc. A lot of time, getting that respect was difficult. And there was a time when we had vendors who told get your dads or husbands to negotiate deals. They didn't understand that we are not doing it as a hobby, but we are doing it as a business, and the bottom line does matter. So professionally, that was our biggest challenge.
Aradhita: Yes, we didn't realize how chauvinistic experience is sometimes working in India is, especially probably in Calcutta. The tea industry is completely dominated by men, and apart from the hawkers at the grassroots level, there aren't women in the tea industry. So that was a big eye-opener for us because people right from producing, packaging material to people we were e sourcing, shortening ingredients from. They were extremely chauvinistic.
- Q. Does that continue to be a problem, or have you learned to get past it?
- Aradhita: We have worked around to a certain extent like sometimes it even involves changing the person we were working with, and sometimes the person kind of realize that we mean business and slowly and gradually start giving us a little bit of respect.
Devanshi: I think just being firm really helps.
Get to Know More About the Founders
- Q. Tell us a little about your interests
- Aradhita: I am really into long-distance running. I love training and running for a marathon. I am really into reading, traveling. I love to explore at least one destination a year if possible.
Devanshi: I think me too, I love travelling, and that's like the biggest missing out due to covid like you couldn't travel. Apart from that, I am into fitness, and I really like cooking when I am alone. Like it's very therapeutic, I feel. I love reading biographies specifically.
- Q. Any particular biography that you really enjoyed?
- Devanshi: You should read one on the founder of Nike. That one is really interesting.
- Q. Since you both like to travel, what did you both do during covid when everything was shut down?
- Aradhita: Honestly, I went to my tea estates, I was there for a while. I enjoyed being out of the city and out of the cooped up environment of the house. Because tea was on, and we got permission to restart after two weeks of the first lockdown. So it was very quick.
Devanshi: I did end up traveling for a short duration to Mussoorie. But I think a large part of me did miss out on travel. Because especially in summer we have a lot of plans to travel here and there. So I am hoping next year will be a better year, we will travel.
- Q. What are our personal favorite flavors of Chaika?
- Devanshi: Mine is the Masala Chai.
Aradhita: Mine too. I think now with the diet tea I am gonna have a lot more of that.
- Q. Is the diet tea completely free of sugar, or have you used substitute sweetener?
- Aradhita: No, that one is completely sugar-free; there is no artificial sweetener. So what I like to have the diet tea is just to add half a teaspoon of sugar. Because I like my tea very less sweet, but I do require a little bit of sugar.
- Q. Is that anything else you would like us to know?
- Aradhita: We would just ask people who are tea lovers and also coffee lovers to try our products. We have converted quite a few coffee lovers, so just try it, give it a go, and we assure you, you won't be disappointed.