Launching a small chai business in Australia

The Much Anticipated Launch

Tuesday, 29th August 2017

By Deepka Ratra

It all started when I was staying at a friend’s house in Leichhardt. It was a Saturday morning, I had just woken up and was suddenly craving some chai (or ‘cha’ as they say in Punjabi), just like the one mum used to make when I was a kid. I was also a little inspired by the fact that my friend hadn’t tasted authentic masala chai before, so I wanted to see if I could enlighten him. I put a pot over the heat, boiled some water and rummaged around the pantry for some spices.

I played around with the recipe until the familiar aroma of my mother’s cha started drifting up from the stove. After almost letting the milk boil over the pot (you’d be surprised how often this happens), I strained it into a couple mugs and sat them down on the table. Tom was playing a video game at the time. He casually picked up his mug and took a sip. He put it down, picked it up again, and took another sip. Then as casually as he had taken the first sip, he paused the game, turned to me and said, “Deepka, you should sell this stuff.” That’s all he said. Those six words were all it took to switch the light bulb on. To be honest, the pausing of the game should have given me a pretty good indication! He described how delicious it was, and that he was sick of the fact that most commercial chai was sold with tons of sugar. Immediately, we did some research and realised how true this is, and how there’s a serious lack of access to traditional chai in Australia.

Thus, started my journey. My initial idea was to make a chai recipe so robust, authentic and sugar-free that it would blow the pants off people. As I started playing around with the recipe, a fully formed logo sprang to mind as well; I was sitting in class at university when I started drawing my first rendition of it. About six months later, my ideas were starting to become fully fledged. I had almost perfected the recipe, decided on a brand and logo, and had packaging on the go. I started my social media pages and was incredibly excited to be getting such amazing feedback from around the world - I was truly overwhelmed with the responses. As I finished my degree at the end of 2016, I began working on the business in my spare time.

The aim became to create a chai blend that was magically bold, very authentic in flavour, strongly spiced, beautifully presented, tied to the roots of Indian culture, compatible with a range of milk alternatives, and as ethical and organic as possible. To create strong and consistent flavour, I took the route of grinding and immediately sealing the chai after it was freshly made. This innovative idea guaranteed maximum flavour and made sure that each cup would taste the same - it was the perfect way of delivering an authentic tasting product through a modern, accessible platform. It took me time to work through the hundreds of hurdles that these ideas presented, but they’ve only given this companu more direction, vigour and integrity.

It would be a lie to say that this business didn’t take an incredible amount of passion, effort, failure and persistence. I still go through these processes today, and look forward to continue going through them in the future as I expand my skills and knowledge. The blood, sweat and tears are what make this company so incredibly special to me; I’m very, very proud and excited to announce that my small business is now ready to launch after fourteen months of intensive thought and hard work - to think that this idea began from two friends having a cup of chai is mind-blowing, and even more so now that it is finally coming to fruition.

There are so many people I’d like to thank for helping me bring this business together. First of all, thank you to every single one of my friends for the incredible support, for being the honest panel of judges I went to when deciding on designs, and for the multiple tastings of chai that I threw at you (even though you loved it, hehe). Secondly, thank you to my family for the long-winded taste testings, for the production help and for the moral support when I was at my lowest. Thirdly, I’d like to especially thank my brother for all the technical help, persistence, support, necessary reality checks and above all, belief in me and my company. Fourthly, thank you to Tom, who was the first guy to believe in my chai. Lastly, a huge thank you to you, my valued customer, not only for supporting my small business, but also for supporting fair trade efforts in India, and for helping me spread the word of magical, Indian masala chai.

I look forward to learning and growing with my cup of chai as I share it with the whole world. I hope that you will experience the love, thoughtfulness and magic that I have put into Deepka Chai, and I hope that it will be the bond between your conversations, the invigoration of your thoughts, and the warm, sparkling moments of your day.