For the love of chai

Taking on the tea shop, with cardboard flasks, hibiscus and sulaimani

March 13, 2017 04:38 pm | Updated 08:45 pm IST

CHENNAI: TAMIL NADU: 11/03/2017: Jahabar Sadique and Balaji Sadagopan of Chai Kings at the Anna Nagar branch. Photo: V. Ganesan.

CHENNAI: TAMIL NADU: 11/03/2017: Jahabar Sadique and Balaji Sadagopan of Chai Kings at the Anna Nagar branch. Photo: V. Ganesan.

What is the one thing that keeps most of us going on a long, tiring day? Endless cups of chai — the strong, sweet, milky concoction that most of us have come to love. And if it is laced with ginger or masala, then it’s an even better pick-me-up. Coffee shops might be a dime a dozen, but it is chai in its many avatars that is most sought after in the country — be it as a conversation starter, a welcome drink or even to just catch a break. It is this love for chai that Chai Kings, one of the newest entrants into the segment, hopes to capture.

Step into any one of their four outlets in the city, and a heady aroma of freshly-brewed tea tantalises you. Ginger and cinnamon are some of the notes the air carries, as the staff busily brews the amber liquid, to which a splash of milk will soon be added to create the ubiquitous chai. While some of this is poured into cutting chai glasses to be served to customers, batches are poured into cardboard flasks (each flask holds around 500 ml of tea), ready to be dispatched for delivery or for takeaway.

There’s also a choice of samosas, cookies, puffs and instant noodles to be had with your cuppa.

Launched in October 2016 by Jahabar Sadique and Balaji Sadagopan in Kilpauk, Chai Kings has now opened four outlets in Kilpauk, Anna Nagar, Mount Road and T Nagar, with the latter having been launched only last month. “We’d been wanting to launch something of our own in the food space, and our research led us to set up Chai Kings. It has good potential if the pricing and business model are right. It took time to work out the logistics, but it was fruitful in the end,” says Sadique.

The outlets all offer a variety of teas, ranging from milk, black, to herbal and ice tea. Flavours such as ginger, masala, sulaimani, dum, lemon, hibiscus, tulsi, and apple jostle for space on their menu. Given that the city already has a large number of chai kadais , one might wonder how Chai Kings stands out. The difference lies in the quality, says Sadique. “Our teas are made with minimal and sulphur-free sugar. When it comes to flavoured teas such as lime and ginger, it’s only fresh ingredients that make the cut; no artificial flavouring here. Even the water we use is six-stage filtered. Besides, our delivery bikes are no-emission electric ones.”

While they do have walk-in orders, a large chunk of their business comes from deliveries, with most people either calling in or ordering online. “When it comes to delivery, time is key for us, since the chai is no good when it cools down. We’ve got our own delivery service and have also tied up with third-party service providers. We also cater to corporates based on a credit model,” he explains.

The road map ahead for Chai Kings is clear. “We hope to have seven outlets in the city by June, and five more by year-end. And then, maybe, Puducherry in a while. We’re also looking for investors; we have some ambitious expansion plans, but we are also looking into finer details such as quality. That’s something we cannot compromise on,” says Sadique.

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