A Q&A with Avi Ronen, one of the directors of Chai Tea
We chat to Avi Ronen, one of the directors of Chai Tea, and discover his tips for making the perfect cup of chai and why you must take a moment to revel in the magic of the spices.
What was the initial vision of Chai Tea founder Peter Connell, and has it changed over time?
So many travellers discover chai in India and love it, but back in the ‘80s you couldn’t really find chai anywhere else. Peter’s vision was to bring the flavours and health benefits of chai to Australia. In the beginning, chai was really only drunk at festivals and by people who had travelled to India. Rainbow Chai was around for 18 years or so before chai became popular like it is today. Originally a one-man band, the company is now collectively owned by three families. Our vision is to continue to bring the health benefits, fun and love of chai to chai drinkers in ways that are increasingly easy, while maintaining our high-quality and environmental ethics around organics and packaging.
What inspired you to get into the tea making industry?
The beauty and rich textures of India, the food, colour, music and spirituality have always been an inspiration for us at Rainbow Chai. Making Rainbow Chai means we are constantly surrounded by memories of India. So much so, we smell like chai!
Tell us about your off-grid lifestyle
Since 1988 we have been taking responsibility for our environmental footprint and minimising it by using solar power, rainwater tanks, solar hot water and compost toilets. These have always been a part of the lifestyle at Rainbow Chai and the people who buy our products know they are supporting a business which has strong environmental values and integrity.
What are some of the natural ingredients you use?
We use original Ayurvedic ingredients as the base of our Rainbow Chai blends: ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, nutmeg and cloves. Some of the chai products on the market today are actually syrups and powdered blends, which are 70 to 80 per cent sugar and made with artificial ingredients. These products are not likely to bring any of the incredible health benefits of traditional chai made with whole spices. These spices have been used in the Masala Chai blends in Sri Lanka and India to heal all sorts of ailments over many generations.
We have created Chai Dandelion, Rooibos, Green Tea, Raw Cacao, Turmeric and coffee blends. Everything is 100-per-cent natural and many of our products are also certified organic. Nowadays people are more educated about their food choices and well travelled and discerning about ingredients. Chai drinkers know when they’ve tasted a quality product and lots of people are much more interested in drinking a traditional, natural version of chai.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Our products come from India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Australia. Using natural ingredients exposes us to the fluctuating weather patterns (droughts, floods and climate change) that affect crops all over the world, so from time to time we need to change where we source our ingredients.
How do you create your blends and flavours?
We blend, mix and pack our chai by hand and put love into every packet. We are chai lovers from way back, have travelled to India many times and, on our travels, have drunk our fair share of good and not-so-good chais. So we consider ourselves chai connoisseurs and experts. Plus we have many friends to share our trials with, so we can get our blend just right.
How do you care for the environment? What sustainable practices do you adhere to?
We have developed our organic range as well as opting for Fair Trade in the development of new products. We use a minimal amount of packaging and endeavour to keep our packaging biodegradable wherever possible. As we live and work off grid, we reduce, reuse, minimise and recycle our bulk packaging.
What are your three top tips for relaxation?
- Meditation, yoga and surfing.
- Chai, milk and honey.
- A good dose of gratitude for the amazing environment we find ourselves living in.
How do you make the perfect chai?
Breathe deeply, find a moment of stillness and remember that you are blessed to be in this moment where you are able to make chai. Start with a Rainbow Chai product that suits your health needs, the milk of your choice, honey if you like it sweet and more moments of peace and gratitude as you drink and enjoy either stillness, or the company of good friends.
Mix one teaspoon of spice mix with two teaspoons of Rainbow Chai in two cups of water in a pot. Stir every minute and, when it begins to simmer (don’t let it boil) add a cup of milk of your choice and let it come back to the simmer, continuing to stir every minute. Add honey if you wish and serve. Let yourself be transported to India by the spices and know that you are one in a long lineage of chai drinkers around the world.
What’s next for Chai Tea?
We are in the process of making a fantastic tea bag of our classic Spice Mix blend. It’s caffeine-free with lots of flavour and all the convenience of a tea bag.
We are committed to keeping Australian chai lovers all chai’d up with affordable, healthy and high-quality beverages with a low environmental footprint. What’s good for our planet is good for us.
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