‘Chai,’ also known as ‘Chai Tea,’ is part of almost every coffeehouse all over the world. In fact, the popularity of this drink, across the globe, is giving tough competition to big coffee brands like Starbucks.
In this article, we will look over how an Indian drink meant for the poor became dominant globally. However, before we delve into how chai became a world-famous brand, let’s first take a look at its history.
A Brief History
While ‘Chai Tea’ is relatively recent, the original concept of ‘masala chai’ was first introduced thousands of years ago. Masala chai, which means spiced tea, can be found in many tales of royalty and even was used as herbal medicine across multiple provinces in India.
Where It All Began
While there are no relevant sources about when chai was first introduced, lore states that its history began centuries ago in an ancient royal court. According to lore, masala chai also has Thai origins. Regardless of the geographical location, the creation of the beverage has always been that a king made it as a cleansing, vivifying, Ayurvedic drink.
Surprisingly, the earliest versions of chai didn’t actually contain any tea leaves, and it was even caffeine-free. Instead, the beverage was prepared with a wide range of spices and was ideally served cold or hot, used for a remedy for mild ailments.
The Introduction of Black Tea
Besides India, another country that is known for its obsession with tea is Britain. However, they used black tea leaves to create their beverage. Hence, it’s no surprise that when the British ruled over India, they set up tea plantations to mix the two different types of tea, to create one beverage. This was the first time the concoction of masala chai was created, which was made from spices, milk, sweetener, and tea leaves. However, at that point, the tea wasn’t too popular as it was too expensive for Indians, and the Britishers weren’t too fond of spices.
The Rise of Masala Chai In India
In the 1900s, the British-owned Indian Tea Association began to promote the consumption of masala tea in India. As the imported black-tea was the most expensive ingredient, vendors used it sparingly, while increasing the portions of milk, sugar, and spices to keep the brew flavourful, yet affordable. Hence, the popularity of masala chai in India started to spread, which kept increasing when a mechanized form of tea production made black tea affordable for the Indian masses. The mechanized tea is known as CTC (crush, tear, curl) tea, and while it has its benefits and flavor, it does lack the nuances of masala chai’s sweet, creamy, and spicy notes.
Today, a majority of Indians love masala chai. You can find multiple tea vendors selling tea for as cheap as INR 10 ($0.13) on almost every corner of any road.
What made this beverage even more popular in the country is that the beloved Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi was a ‘chaiwala’ (tea vendor), before he decided to embark on his political journey.
May 21st is considered as International Chai Day
The Introduction of Chai-Tea That Took Over The World
As masala chai is extremely flavourful and can be prepared in multiple ways using a host of different ingredients, this beverage soon became extremely popular around the world, especially in the United States. With specific customizations, this beverage was named ‘chai-tea’ and quickly became a popular beverage across almost every coffee-house in the USA, including Starbucks. Here are some popular ways of consuming chai-tea:
- You can use a host of various sweeteners for creating this beverage. In India, mostly jaggery or sugar is used, whereas other countries use cane sugar and even honey.
- In most parts of the world and India, masala chai is made using black tea; however, Kashmir uses gunpowder green tea instead.
- As the world moves towards healthier options, there are many caffeine-free versions of this beverage too; some use rooibos instead.
- When the tea is prepared in India, the milk used is generally whole milk. However, some versions around the world include skim milk, soymilk, or other non-dairy options.
- Some American coffee-houses use vanilla ice cream to make frozen chai.
- In India, this beverage is usually made from scratch, with fresh ginger and spices. However, in other parts of the world, a concentrated syrup is available as a tea blend with dry spices.
- In recent years, chai-tea lattes have become increasingly popular, along with a masala-flavored drink called dirty chai.
Key Lessons To Learn From ‘Chai’ While Building An International Brand
While ‘chai’ is sold by many different companies, it has definitely made a brand name for itself. And, considering this beverage, without any real marketing strategy, managed to achieve world dominance, there are some great lessons every entrepreneur can learn. Mentioned below are three such tips that The Money Gig has derived after analyzing the success story of chai.
Create A Backstory
Today’s consumers are spoiled for choice, be it brands or products. There are multiple options in every niche, with various brands selling one product. Hence, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to tell a compelling story that will connect with customers. After all, no matter how amazing your product or branding is, people will always remember the story.
For example, while people don’t remember the exact geographical origin of chai, what they do remember and connect with is the story that some king created the beverage as a form of a remedy for minor ailments.
So, instead of only focusing on why your product is so great, you should also focus on how your product was conceptualized and what made it so tasty.
Customizations Are A Must
There is a common phrase that almost every entrepreneur will love, “the more, the better.” While starting small and slow is true, the ultimate goal needs to be targeting as many customers as possible.
Hence, you should keep making customizations to your product to cater to a larger target audience. For example, one chai left the spice-lovers and made its way to the west; the ingredients, flavours, and options changed radically.
However, we’d like to point out that brands should only branch out when they know they can provide quality service to their customers. Chai took thousands of years to actually leave India and become a preferred beverage around the world.
Position Yourself Depending On The Market
The importance of knowing your market cannot be stressed upon enough, primarily to determine if there is a demand for your product or services. However, another reason to know the market has the ability to decide how to position your brand. For example, in a market like India, where chai is extremely common and available at low prices, it is usually the lowest priced beverage on most menus. However, in a foreign market like the USA, chai has suddenly become an exotic beverage coming from another land.
Hence, it’s imperative to understand your market and position your brand accordingly.
In The End
By analyzing chai as a brand, we were able to derive some amazing insights about how to cater to a global audience. This just goes to show that there are valuable lessons for entrepreneurs to learn everywhere. All they need to do is have the eye for it.
Another thing the case study of chai shows us is that almost every product, if marketed right, can be a major success. Even a beverage that was created for the common man can be transformed into a worldwide phenomenon.
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