For Ayan and Ani Sanyal, two brothers now of their thirties, the beginning of college holidays in Massachusetts meant their favorite time of the yr — two months with their prolonged household of their hometown of Kolkata.
This time spent within the Indian metropolis, they are saying, held a distinct type of magic altogether.
“We frequently joked about how the road wallahs of Kolkata possessed nearly magical abilities,” Ani tells The Higher India. “We have been nearly sure that these distributors had particular sauces and spices that they advised nobody about.”
“From consuming bhel puri in newspaper cones to visiting the identical chai stalls that our mom would frequent throughout her school years, we developed a deep respect for the custom and private nature of meals,” Ayan notes.
So naturally, when it was time to return, they felt nostalgic.
Among the many many issues they missed once they returned to their life within the US, says Ani, probably the most vital was chai. “Genuine Indian tea was tough to search out on the streets of America, with cafes there being recognized for serving westernised variations,” he says.
This acquired the brothers pondering.
Because the teas of America didn’t fulfill their cravings for chai, why not construct a model that did simply this? This thought was the genesis of Kolkata Chai Co, a enterprise in New York that’s making People fall in love with the brew of desi chai.
Ask the Sanyal brothers why chai is such an integral a part of their lives and their response is fast — “Isn’t it for everybody?”
‘Ek cup chai’ on the streets of New York
Recounting how the seeds for the enterprise have been planted, Ani says he and his brother grew up as first-generation Indian People after their dad and mom left Kolkata in 1987 to come back to Massachusetts.
“Our idea of house was ever-shifting,” he explains. “One aspect of our life was listening to hip hop, consuming pizza and begging our dad and mom for a pair of Vans sneakers, whereas the opposite, smaller half, was the household time we’d have in Kolkata yearly.”
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that brothers nearly lived a distinct life for these couple of months yearly. They agree.
“Spending time with our prolonged household meant we have been in a position to see the world via a wholly totally different lens and discovered the significance of household, religion and privilege at a really younger age,” says Ayan, including that they have been usually left fascinated with this aspect of life.
Even with quite a few visits to the paras (neighbourhoods) of Kolkata on a shoestring price range, they are saying no journey was full with no go to to their favorite chai stall ‘Maharanis’.
“The satisfaction we acquired from smashing the clay bhar cups into the bottom after ending our chai was unparalleled,” laughs Ani. “There was a lore to avenue meals. It was democratising, generational, and spoke to all socio-economic ranges.”
Because the story goes, after one such journey in 2017, because the brothers returned to America, they did so with an concept — How will we prolong the authenticity, respect and custom behind a cup of masala chai to the western world?
And that’s how Kolkata Chai Co was born.
Brewing a enterprise
“For the primary 18 months after we had the concept, we’d do pop-up retailers and farmers markets in NYC, and acquired an excellent response. Following this success and getting a way that individuals beloved desi chai, we opened the NYC cafe to a line of 700 individuals in 2019,” says Ayan.
Ani provides that they began with a easy thought — making South Asian tradition and delicacies accessible to everybody via chai and Indian avenue meals.
However the preliminary days of establishing noticed many challenges, the most important being “an absence of capital and assets”.
“NYC is an especially aggressive, costly atmosphere to run a meals enterprise in and we jumped into it with out realizing how tough it may very well be. Barely six months into our cafe operation, the pandemic shut all of the eating places within the metropolis down and we have been compelled to shut,” says Ani.
As a way to hold the enterprise afloat, they knew they must assume out of the field.
“From delivering chai in our automobile throughout NYC to transport our chai combine throughout the nation, we spent each waking minute attempting to stabilise our enterprise. These classes taught us to be sharp operators and we’ve been in a position to sustainably develop ever since,” provides Ayan.
‘We wished to accurately characterize our tradition.’
Visitors who are available in via the doorways of Kolkata Chai Co are handled to totally different menus relying upon the season.
“Within the summertime, we serve our notorious iced oat milk chai, masala limcas and oat milk smooth serve, whereas within the fall it’s all concerning the conventional masala chai. We see individuals come from all throughout the nation — and typically the world — to expertise this slice of Kolkata in NYC.”
Within the cacophony of westernised variations of chai lattes, has it been powerful to introduce New York Metropolis to the normal desi chai?
The brothers disagree.
“Fortunate for us, New York Metropolis is a spot like none different and persons are open to educating their very own palettes. I received’t deny there’s nonetheless numerous miseducation round what ‘chai’ actually is and what its actual flavour profile is meant to be,” says Ani.
However, he provides, via social media posts and viral content material, they’ve begun to reframe individuals’s concept of chai and the way a lot they’ve to achieve by experiencing it in its genuine type.
At this time, there are 15 individuals a part of Kolkata Chai Co and together with drinks, the menu additionally contains Indian avenue meals – which encompasses Kolkata-style egg rolls, samosas, chaats and extra.
“We additionally characteristic seasonal menus for the autumn and summer season, the place you possibly can catch our ‘Ma’s Ginger Chai’, a tackle the straightforward, but extremely efficient ginger tea our mom made for us rising up. We additionally serve mint lemonade, which is a spin on a childhood basic we grew up with in Kolkata,” says Ani.
For individuals who’d prefer to order on-line, their chai mixes are at the moment shipped to the US and Canada.
Ask the brothers if America is loving the desi chai, they are saying the numbers communicate for themselves.
“We serve hundreds of shoppers a month at our cafe and hundreds extra via our e-commerce web site. Our aim is to grow to be the family identify for chai within the western world and finally throughout the globe,” says Ani.
Edited by Divya Sethu