Wed, 17 Nov 2010 10:18:15 GMT

Brewing up the masala magic

Inspired by the spirit of bhakti, a US-based company sells masala chai using fair-trade tea from Assam and spices from Mumbai

Brewing up the masala magic

When Brook Eddy first came to Mumbai in 2002 to study the spiritual movement Swadhayay, which promotes devotion through social action, "chai" was something she happily sipped along her travels across India. But one day, says Eddy, she was served something called masala chai or "special" chai. "It really awoke my mind and taste buds. I love spices and this spice elixir spoke to my constitution, and seemed to nudge and inspire me," says this post-graduate in social policy and non-profit management from the University of Michigan.

Eddy returned to the US and couldn't find anything quite like masala chai and so she began to brew her own at home, subsequently setting up her venture -- Bhakti Chai, a microbrewed masala chai company. Microbrewing is the process of brewing tea in small quantities. Her first bottling process began as holiday gifts for friends -- mason jars of chai with poems of Kabir as labels. "Everyone who tried my chai, seemed to be entranced with the sweet spice hum too, this was when Bhakti Chai was born in 2006," she explains.
Now, the company based in Boulder, Colorado offers liquid tea concentrate blend of fresh-pressed organic ginger and spices in a microbrewed broth of organic, fair-trade black tea. "We grew on a grassroots level because there was a hole in the chai market here in Colorado and people appreciated our spicy product," says Eddy. The company buys all of its tea from a fair-trade estate in Assam. Fair-trade tea estates ensure better working conditions and wages for tea workers and their families. Bhakti also sources some spices directly from Mumbai. "Our fresh ginger comes from Peru. We fresh-press over 800 pounds of organic ginger and microbrew over 2,000 gallons of tea a week," says she.

Eddy did not have any financial investment for the first two years of starting her company and had another full-time job to support her family. "I just made small batches and was able to purchase more ingredients when I sold those batches of chai," she says. But as more and more people were realising that chai in the States was really just a chai-flavoured syrup or powdered chai, Bhakti began gaining traction from people interested in "fresh" microbrewed authentic tasting masala chai, for its health benefits too.

Bhakti sells chai in four variants -- Original, which is black tea with milled spices and evaporated cane juice, Decaf, Unsweetened and Coffee. A 3 quart chai pack costs $24. True to its name, Bhakti (which in Sanskrit means devotion), is committed to charitable contributions -- 25 per cent of its net income.

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