Brimming with good energy and beautiful smells is how our teas must be! Well, that’s how we would like our tea-drinking experience to feel like. While we do start each morning with a fresh cuppa or two; of late, we felt like we needed to know more about the kind of tea concoctions we like sipping on (besides our ginger-masala chais and various other fruity blends). Just as we decided this, it was not too long ago before we came across a colourful tea label called Chai Diaries… that promised to enlighten us!
Founded fairly recently (last May), Chai Diaries was brought to life by Ami Bhansali, a tea drinker and enthusiast, who previously used to work in PR and the branding segment for a while now (she is also the founding partner at ASB Consultancy presently, an integrated branding firm which specialises in lifestyle and luxury). What drew us to Chai Diaries is the poetic essence of the brand, the way two everyday actions were carefully conjoined to form its name (tea-drinking and writing in one’s journal), and of course, the super colourful packaging!
When we spoke to Ami, we found out that Chai Diaries retails specialty teas mostly, and they buy their base teas from different tea estates and tea brokers from tea-producing countries like India, Sri Lanka, China, to name a few, and then blend the leaves with fruits, botanical ingredients and all natural and, or sometimes organic flavouring, where and when it’s required. To cater to their customers primarily, Chai Diaries put together signature blends as per different taste palates, thereby constantly innovating and educating folks who drink their teas.
Speaking of tea blends, Ami enthuses that creating the blends is the most fun for her and the team! It depends on different qualitative factors such as a person’s mood, taste buds, olfactory perception and even visual appeal at the moment of creating a blend. Ami even compares it to putting together all of your favourite things only to find out that they might not add up, or that you need to change an ingredient here and there to create something mesmerising! “Everyone loves chocolate and it turns out so does tea! Our “Chocolate Kisses” tea went through a series of blending sessions that included caramel pieces, dark chocolate, all natural strawberry flavouring and the like till we finally closed in on the right mix!” she shares.
Mostly, they try their level best to work with all natural flavours and staying true to the sincerity of Chai Diaries’ brand mission and organic flavours are included wherever required. They also use scientific methods to create teas meant for medicinal purposes.
Something we’re all curious to hear about – the health factor! According to Ami, “Teas in general, are very healthy and go well with our different moods throughout the day. They are a great digestive, can be calming, can be exciting, can be refreshing, can be even had as an herbal infusion or decaffeinated – the key is in creating the right blend to deliver a beverage which tastes as good as it looks and makes you feel!” We can’t disagree on that, for sure.
The Tea Leaves Speak!
On Chai Diaries, you will find a selection of teas classified into different types and as per the oxidisation process and premium infusions offered (within their label):
Black: These are purchased primarily from India and Southeast Asia, and Ami says, “These distinctive black teas with their full-bodied malty flavours and pleasant astringency create a bold and unique character for our classic blends. We love using the high grown, intensely aromatic, full-flavoured Nilgiris’ teas in our specialty blends to deliver maximum taste.”
Green: “Most green teas are either steamed or pan-fired to stop the oxidisation, keeping the leaves green and protecting its fresh flavour. We seek out fresh, vegetative and floral notes in our steamed green teas, and smooth, mild notes for our citrus and spice blends.”
Signature Blends: “These include our exclusive premium teas and herbal infusions.”
White: “White tea was relatively unknown in the United States until just under a decade ago when Britney Spears was quoted in a magazine saying that she drinks white tea for its antioxidant properties. Since then, white tea’s popularity has spread, largely due to its purported health benefits and supposedly low caffeine level. White tea is the least processed of tea types and yields the lightest cup colour and most delicate aroma and flavour. Purchased from a wide area of Southeast China, it requires very selective picking and handling of the young, dense tea buds.”
Rooibos: “Rooibos tea is naturally caffeine-free, and is believed to have anti-ageing effects. Rooibos tea has expanded from a small herb indigenous to a select region of South Africa to one of the hottest trends in the tea industry. It is a delicious, naturally sweet and versatile beverage and we have used it to create a signature masala chai blend as well!”
Oolong: “In the family tree of Chinese teas, Oolong tea which is semi-fermented, lies between non-fermented green tea and fermented black tea. Harvested in small batches, we source our tea from Southeast China and the island of Taiwan, where they are known for their varying cup colours and complex processing methods. The unique and smooth flavour associated with Oolongs is beautifully complemented with fruit or floral blends such as with our Rose Oolong.”
Infusion: “Refreshing and for your well-being, our delicious infusions or herbal blends are created with a distinctive processing method and made from many types of botanical ingredients, herbs, roots, spices, fruits and berries. Most of our infusions are caffeine-free.”
Blooming/Display: “An absolute visual delight and party favourite, flowering tea or blooming tea consist each of a bundle of dried tea leaves wrapped around one or more dried flowers. These are made by binding tea leaves and flowers together into a bulb and are then set to dry. When steamed, the bundle expands and unfurls in a process that emulates a blooming flower, while the flowers inside emerge as the centerpiece. Typically, they are sourced from the Yunnan province of China. Flowering tea is generally served in containers made of glass, or other transparent tumblers so that the flowering effect can be seen.” Wow, how neat (also very Instagram-worthy)!
Ami’s Favourite Teas & Flavours
“As clichéd as it sounds, I do love all the teas we offer at Chai Diaries – they are personally selected, after all! I select my teas based on my mood and time of day. While most people enjoy our Classic Breakfast to begin their day with, I prefer a smooth Oolong, like the Flowery Tikwanyin or the Organic Dragonwell from our Green Tea collection. For the afternoon, I prefer a refreshing, light beverage – something I call the dessert tea – our Ice Queen blend. This is a white tea with champagne and red raspberry flavours! The Rooibos Bourbon too is a fabulous refresher! The exciting and innovative range of masala chai we offer constantly teases the taste buds.”
Of Teas & Tales of How Chai Diaries Grew
“Chai Diaries is a dream that resided in my heart long before I realised it was there. Spending summers at my family’s tea estates in the Nilgiri hills, I was always drawn to the beauty of the plantations, the woods and the many secrets the wild-growing herbs held! In all sincerity, it was my desire to share this experience through a tangible product which drove me to create Chai Diaries. People perceive tea in so many different ways – based on the growing regions, based on tasting notes and also based on their self-revelations! Like a diary, our teas hold our deepest secrets and calm us down or excite us in following our passions. The world of tea is constantly being discovered across the globe, and coming from a tea-producing country and a family of tea growers, I felt that it was my calling to walk down this path! I wanted to connect with people who know nothing about tea, people who are curious about tea, people who know tea and people who love tea! Through our online shop, I wished to open up my diary, my discovery of tea and invite everyone to share their story. I constantly had people tell me before that they didn’t like the taste of tea! This challenged me to create blends that I enjoyed, because given the benefits of tea it deserved to be delicious. We’re constantly creating innovative blends, playing with the classic ones to create a portfolio of teas which look great and taste delicious!”
What the Tea Leaves Reveal!
An here’s something extra! We asked Ami if there was one flavour that she hasn’t coined or come up with yet that she is looking forward to add to Chai Diaries. “We have just created what I like to call our signature aphrodisiac – Cross My Heart. This was inspired by an olive oil tasting session. It’s a beautiful blend of white tea complemented with blood oranges, pomegranates and vanilla flavouring – absolutely fabulous.” Mm-mmm, that sounds tantalising already!
Chai Diaries retails their teas on the site itself, as well as on Amazon (for customers in the United States). To buy Chai Diaries’ teas in India, you can either e-mail email@example.com or call (+91) 9820453141. Prices for their delightful teas start at 700 INR (approx)