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Meet Ami Bhansali of Chai Diaries in Mission Viejo, Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ami Bhansali.

Ami, please share your story with us. 
Chai Diaries is a lifestyle brand retailing specialty organic and conventional teas. Inspired by my tea-enriched household (three generations of history in growing and manufacturing tea in the beautiful Nilgiris, India), the brand is all about REAL TEA, REAL HERBS, REAL SPICES! Embracing a tea culture from early on, at Chai Diaries, we are on a mission to make fresh, premium teas accessible to all. Inspired by fashion, art, culture, and diversity, Chai Diaries is about clean ingredients, beautiful packaging, and a superior tea experience. Sourcing teas from the world-over, our specialty teas are hand blended locally in Los Angeles, California.

Growing up, I remember spending our summer holidays (and a lot of days in between!) at our family’s tea plantations in the Nilgiris (Southern India). 27 years later, in Central Park, New York, I found myself reflecting on memories of the tall pines touching the bed of clouds far up in the sky, the smell of eucalyptus trees surrounding the hills and the unending tea bushes lining up the mountains. Amidst the fast-paced chaos around me, I took a deep breath in of this memory.

This feeling of deep-rooted calmness inspired by memories embedded deep in my heart, inspired the idea of Chai Diaries. I knew there was a need to bring a pause in our everyday moments, to reflect and repurpose ourselves. Chai Diaries teas, aim to create an indulgent experience of simplicity and beauty in the every day. It allows you those precious moments to recharge and reconnect with yourself.

Turning your tea-time into a mini meditation sesh, no matter where you are, to reconnect with who you are and where you are going. Like writing in your personal diary, unraveling your truth, these moments give you comfort in reconnecting with yourself. That is why I feel making a cup of chai, is akin to walking the path of self-realization!

Our product line has something for everyone. We use real flavors and organic ingredients. Our retail packaging is available in the following line items:

  1. Little Black Tins – 15 CT biodegradable pyramid tea bags gorgeously packaged in giftable, reusable tins – available in 8 handcrafted specialty blends with NO artificial flavoring or sugars.
  2. Tall Black Tins – 3-4 oz of premium, hand blended loose leaf tea with real ingredients (fruits & botanicals) gorgeously packaged in giftable, reusable tins – available in 6 handcrafted specialty blends with NO artificial flavoring or sugar
  3. Insta-Chai Premix – 14 oz of chai latte premix packaged in resealable stand-up pouches. Our instant, just-add-water chais dissolve easily leaving no residue and no mess! A genius solution for making hassle-free cups of chai lattes. Using simple ingredients with no artificial flavoring, we use only four ingredients to deliver the perfect cup of chai! Available in 5 premix flavors – Masala, Cardamom, Ginger, Lemongrass and Turmeric.
  4. XPRS – 20 CT individually wrapped pyramid pouches – available in three specialty blends with organic super ingredients: Moringa, Turmeric, and Berries. These staple-less pyramid pouches hold full leaf teas and ingredients to maximize the benefits in your cup! Beautifully packaged in individual envelopes, get ready to stash, steep and sip your way to wellness!

All our teas can be made iced!

Our bold, interesting, special flavors in fabulous packaging, will attract anyone who goes to tea as a form of relaxation, wellness or entertaining beverage option!

Chai Diaries specialty teas are available in over 400 stores including H-E-B (Texas), WholeFoods Market (Northeast Region), Bed, Bath & Beyond, Lazy Acres Markets, Amazon, and of course on our website-www.mychaidiaries.com

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Chai Diaries being launched in the USA is more organic and God-sent than a planned approach! I was at a crossroads in my life. I was in the PR & Branding world in Bombay for many years, running my own firm, but things were getting too hectic. I decided to pursue a few business courses in NYU-SCPS, in Manhattan. One of the courses needed us to present a business idea and my team worked on introducing a chai cart concept in New York City! That hasn’t worked out as yet, but it definitely got me thinking of pursuing a life in tea! From there it’s been all about luck, sleepless nights and cross-world travel schedules! Pursuing this I moved to New York and tried introducing people to specialty teas. Juggling between my PR company in India and interning at a café in New York, I got the opportunity to understand the market for premium teas.

The biggest life experience I can credit to Chai Diaries is teaching me independence. It gave me the courage to pursue my passion, the perseverance to start ground up and live in a new country among strangers. And these values define the Chai Diaries customer… someone who is unafraid to peel the layers, to reveal an identity true to their heart.

I have had the opportunity to travel to many different cities across India, Europe, and America – to learn more about tea and sell our specialty line of teas! I had to learn how to set up trade show booths and hear the word “no” (constantly) from retailers! I had to learn in real life, not through some MBA course, the intricacies of running a consumer business and the logistics involved! Meeting buyers from top companies like Starbucks and legends in the tea business to camping out trying to get to a trade show, it has been an extremely exciting journey! There is still a long way to go and I’m excited for the adventures up ahead!

Chai Diaries – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Specialty tea is growing in leaps and bounds. The tea world is not restricted anymore to masala chais and Earl Greys! Today’s generation demands cleaner ingredients and transparency in job work. With wellness being the keyword, tea drinking is appreciated for its simple ingredients and innumerable health benefits.

Our target audience is everyone! Anyone looking for a healthier beverage option is our audience! Chai Diaries’ range of teas includes the conventional blends along with exciting wellness herbal tisanes and even ayurvedic teas! The brand is marketed to people who appreciate the finer things in life. Our premium packaging, conscious materials, and bold colors talk to an audience that is not afraid to take time out for self-care. Our customers are not restricted by timelines and geographical boundaries, but are fluid in their quest to find calm in the chaos of everyday life!

There is nothing like sharing what you love, and we have a great following of people that gift our teas! There is a blend of tea for every mood and time of day. You can have different breakfast teas, dessert teas, wake-me-ups and post-workout teas!

We hold tea tasting demos in the stores and at our trade shows to educate customers on different tea blends, ingredients, and benefits with tea drinking.

What I am most proud of, is how humbling TEA is. A natural product, contributing to overall health and wellness, for thousands of years, it is constantly evolving. And in that process, helping its audience evolve. Allowing each generation to discover the benefits of tea at their pace, reminding them to slow down, showing us how to appreciate an elixir from something as simple as two leaves and a bud. This is tea. And I am fortunate to have it in my blood!

What sets Chai Diaries apart, is providing our customers, three generations of tea heritage in a cup! We know the growing, the manufacturing and the retail. For anyone who goes to a cup of tea as any form of relaxation, chooses it as a flavor over coffee, for anyone that entertains and serves tea, or someone who is just looking for an alternative beverage, we can say, “we will pour you a cuppa!”

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Not trying to be a cliche, but when my mother visited me in 2015 from India, and I took her to a local grocery that retails our line of tea…the look of pride in her eyes, was that moment.

The sudden departure from India, the sleepless nights and hustling in New York, the staying in a hotel for 2 months in LA trying to figure out Chai Diaries roadmap; leaving all things familiar for a road never travelled, to give in to the Universe based on chance and self-belief, in that moment of pride, translated wordlessly between my mother and me.

Pricing:

  • Little Black Tins – 15 ct biodegradable pyramid teabags: $9.99
  • Loose Leaf Teas – 3-4 ounces: $9.99-12.99
  • Insta-Chai latte premix – 14 ounces – $9.99

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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