Is Chai having a come back? Is it Chai Time?


Sean Edwards

8/1/20235 min read

Ten years ago, Chai was the second biggest buzz word in cafe drinks outside of coffee.

Today chai sales have slowed up but as some smart innovators re-enter the market, I am predicting the reinvigoration of this pleasurable drink.

The chai latte was the go-to for an afternoon cafe pick-me-up for many years.

Chai was also the reason the barista plant milk industry was born, as many of the lifestyle crowd that knew about chai preferred the beverage to be made on an alternative milk such as soy or almond.

Chai drinkers were once the alternative customer who dressed in tie-dye, wore dreds and smelt of patchouli oil.

They were interesting world travellers who discovered chai at a yoga retreat in India. Then things changed, chai became popular with the mainstream cafe consumer when the process of preparing chai was made easier with the introduction of soluble powders and concentrated liquids.

There have always been two camps of thinking around chai - the brewed method and the soluble instant cafe-style. In my opinion both methods are fine, and they both have a purpose in a cafe. Traditional chai that is brewed fresh can take up to five minutes to prepare whereas soluble chai can be made in less than a minute. I believe soluble chai was the reason it became so popular, due to the fact the beverage could be made quickly on the steam arm of the espresso machine, and it fitted into the quick service module of the espresso bar. Sit down service suited better to the brewed chai method, like specialty teas.

My feeling is that chai sales will increase again if baristas are re-trained on the use of soluble chai solutions. I have been in discussion for a while now with chai expert Michael Bishop from Alchemy Beverages, who have been selling a liquid chai for over twenty years. Michael knows all too well about the history around the quality of the drink and has designed a way to serve chai simply and quickly in an express café model. His Liquid Chai is about doing all the hard work for the cafe barista by making a concentrated liquid, using traditional ingredients and original methodology, and turning it into a fast espresso drink. He knows the speed of service businesses very well, with large customers like Pret A Manger in the UK going through thousands of bottles of his chai elixir monthly.

Michael has seen a new steady growth of cafe customers re-engaging with chai again and is actively teaching the new wave of baristas about the product and the service process, how to make the most out of just one product on their drink’s menu and the importance of the seasonality of drinks. Cafe coffee sales die off quickly midafternoon, so alternative beverages like chai can make up good sales when people want a warm brew without the caffeine hit. Chai is also versatile in cold beverages, and many of the large chains especially in North America will use chai flavouring in iced drinks.

Michael gave us his overview of how Chai is sitting in the Australian cafe menu:

Traditionally, chai is a blend of black tea and a combination of spices, including cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves. It is brewed in milk and sweetened with sugar or honey. The aroma of chai is warm and comforting, and the taste is spicy and sweet.

The popularity of chai spread to the west during the colonial era when the British introduced it to the masses. However, it wasn't until the 1990s that chai became a popular beverage in cafes in Australia. The rise of the specialty coffee industry paved the way for the popularity of chai lattes, which have become a staple in cafes around the country. Alchemy created the world’s first Chai Elixir in 1997.

There are different types of chai bases used to make chai lattes, including powder, sticky chai, and concentrates. Chai powder is a pre-made blend of tea and spices, which is simply mixed with milk to create a chai latte. Sticky chai is a paste made from tea and spices, which is mixed with milk and sweetened with honey or sugar. Chai concentrates are a more concentrated form of chai, which can be diluted with milk or water to create a chai latte.

Despite the variety of chai bases available, not all chai lattes are created equal. Enter Alchemy’s new Mumbai Chai Elixir – the superior choice for cafes looking to provide a high-quality, consistent, and profitable chai latte.

Mumbai Chai was created to be quite simply the most delicious, easy to make, 100% natural chai base in the world. It has been selected by global cafe company Pret A Manger as their chai latte product, and within 9 months of launch has already eclipsed sales of our Original Chai Elixir, with more than 85,000 Mumbai Chai lattes being enjoyed every week!

What sets Alchemy’s Mumbai Chai Elixir apart is its ease of use. Unlike chai powder there is no grit or sediment. Alchemy Chai Elixir requires no measuring, mixing, or brewing. Mumbai chai is also way faster than the time-consuming brewing required for sticky chai products that take time for the flavours to develop. Simply add a small amount of the elixir, via the dosing pump to steamed milk and enjoy a perfectly balanced chai latte every time. It is entirely natural, with no preservatives, and is dairy and gluten free, and when made on plant milk is vegan friendly.

Consistency is key in the cafe industry, and Alchemy’s Mumbai Chai Elixir delivers. With a long shelf life and no need for refrigeration, cafes can rely on Alchemy Chai Elixir to provide a consistent and delicious chai latte every time.

Finally, Alchemy Chai Elixir is a profitable choice for cafes. The concentrated elixir provides a high yield per bottle, making it a cost-effective option. Plus, its ease of use means less waste, less labour, and a faster service time, all of which contribute to increased profitability.

In conclusion, Alchemy Chai Elixir is the superior choice for cafes looking to provide a high-quality, consistent, and profitable chai latte. With its rich heritage and unique flavour profile, chai has captured the hearts of people all around the world, and Alchemy Chai Elixir is the perfect way to share this tradition with your customers.

Thank you again Michael for the history lesson and giving our readers some insight into this exciting beverage opportunity. If you are interested to try Alchemy’s new Mumbai Chai Elixir in your cafe, just give Alchemy a call on 07 3488 2335 or email to get a free sample sent to you.

Sean Edwards

Managing Director Sean has been involved in the Australian café industry for over 20 years. Originally owning several regional café businesses he became passionate about the growth of the world coffee and Australian cafe industries.

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