The Beginning

Tea Production and the evolution of CHAI


It all starts at the plantation farm. Those beautiful farms on hill slopes. A tea picker carries a basket and handpicks the best leaves for producing tea.

  • The idea of Chai was also HAND-PICKED by its founders, Tejas and Aziza Degwekar. Two software engineers who found that Java and C++ were not their cup of tea. Always having the urge to do something in the field of hospitality, Tejas tilted towards the idea of opening a cafe. And having the full support of his parents, who were there with him through thick and thin, he dived into following his passion with the confidence similar to that of Rahul Dravid playing a test match. But with so many of them spreading like chickenpox, it couldn’t be like any other cafe. It had to stand out like a fully clothed man on a nude beach. And it was after numerous brainstorming sessions and silly names like BBC (Biscuit Bun Chai), Mac-T and Chai-la, that their kettle finally blew its whistle and the idea of Chai was born.

    A critical process in tea production, the tea leaves are made to sweat. Poor things. It is done in a controlled environment and in order to lose its moisture content.

  • A lot of hard work went into implementing the idea. The founders of Chai SWEAT IT OUT for what they believed in. Tejas kept his job at the software company while simultaneously working on implementing the idea of Chai. He still woke up for the morning commute and was a part of the corporate slavery establishment because it was a means to fund his passion.

    The purpose of this process is to break the cell walls of the leaves, thereby releasing essential oils from them.

  • Just like the cell walls are broken, similarly the walls that were hindering the implementation of the idea were climbed over. For instance, they ended up exhausting a large portion of their piggy bank budget for the rent of the shop. The pig wasn’t happy, so in came cost-saving measures like using posters of Govinda and Mithun in their colourful Bollywood avatars as wallpaper, and using Aziza’s uncle’s collection of old antiques as part of the ambience at Chai.

    Ever noticed how an apple or a potato goes brown when cut open? This is what is done to the tea leaves at this stage. They are left in dark, cool rooms, and left to transform into a copper brown colour. It gives tea its aroma and flavour.

  • Chai’s founders did the same with their idea. They added their own flavour to it. From painting the walls and the ceiling like M.F Husain, to preparing and experimenting with every food item before it went up on the menu; these two really got their hands dirty. Studies suggest that Tejas and Aziza have consumed more Maggi in two months than the entire Maggi eating community has in the past 10 years. A graph of Maggi’s sales and profits will soon be put up to prove this point.

    To stop any further chemical reactions, hot air is passed over the leaves. The leaves feel pretty hot at this point. It’s like a vacation in the Caribbean islands but without any sun-block lotion. This process is critical as it hinders the deterioration of tea during storage.

  • Tejas and Aziza had to go through FIRE too before their hard work paid off. When Chai’s shutters were first rolled up, Tejas was the owner, manager and chef, while Aziza and other family members helped by being part of the waiting staff. One could say they took the term ‘Family business’ a bit too literally.

    This is the final stage. The fired tea is graded and sorted. It is done according to the leaf’s size and appearance and has nothing to do with their quality. It is now packed and ready for consumption.

  • There you have it; now you know how tea is made. Plus you also know how the idea of Chai evolved.

    Both Tejas and Aziza are thankful to their family and friends who’ve been with them from the very beginning, and also all the patrons who have grown to love Chai, made as it so rightly says, the way you like it.