Melissa Edyvean & Martin Buggy - Bondi Chai
A visit to New York was serendipitous for Bondi Chai creator and owner Melissa Edyvean. A confirmed non-coffee drinker, Melissa was delighted to happen across a new taste sensation … chai latte. Back home in Australia, she and partner Martin Buggy decided to come up with their very own recipe which turned out to be so good, they unleashed the spicy goodness on the growing numbers of chai lovers.
Several gold and silver medals later at the Hobart Fine Food Show, Bondi Chai is converting coffee-heads into fans of the sweet, milky tea drink. We revelled in the spicy warmth of a cup of Vanilla Honey as we spoke with Melissa and were intrigued to find that this brand is selling the proverbial ice to eskimos … or rather, tea to India, no small feat at all!
FFW: Why the name ‘Bondi Chai’?
BONDI CHAI: We lived in Tassie when we created Bondi Chai so we can’t make any claim to Bondi Beach. But everyone knows Bondi Beach and when they think of it they think “fun, sun and the great outdoors” and we wanted our product to call up those images.
We also wanted Australians to know that our product was as Australian as it gets.
As well, we were always going to export our product and the name Bondi just shouts “Australia” anywhere in the world you go.
And finally… Bondi rhymes nicely with chai – so it made a very catchy name that would stick in people’s minds.
FFW: You offer two flavours: Vanilla Honey and Club Cinnamon. Which do you recommend for people who are unfamiliar with chai or who haven’t enjoyed other brands that they’ve tried?
BONDI CHAI: We created Vanilla Honey as our ‘entry-level chai’ and usually recommend people start there. We call our Club Cinnamon the ‘chai drinker’s chai’ and many people who start with Vanilla Honey ‘graduate’ to Club Cinnamon. Vanilla Honey also seems to be the flavour most people use in flavouring desserts and in iced drinks.
FFW: How is Bondi Chai different from other brands?
BONDI CHAI: We made a huge effort (and spent lots of time and money!) to create a product that delivers full flavour and was completely soluble in milk alone. It doesn’t need any boiled water added to it to release the flavour and the ingredients actually dissolve into milk – they don’t just hang in suspension to eventually fall to the bottom of the glass as a chalky sediment. This meant we could get rid of any thickeners, emulsifiers, whiteners, preservatives and anti-caking agents that are often needed in hot water-soluble powders. Because we only use the ingredients needed for flavour and enjoyment, it takes much less of our product to get the taste and rich-creaminess that chai drinkers fall in love with. Some café owners tell us that they’re happy with their current chai latte, but they change their mind pretty quickly when they hear that they’re paying up to double and sometimes even up to three times per serve what they would pay for Bondi Chai – and their chai latte sales are only a fraction of what they should expect with our product.
FFW: How important do you think chai is in the hot beverages market?
BONDI CHAI: Chai latte is probably the only truly ‘new’ hot beverage to be added to the café menu in decades. When we launched Bondi Chai no-one knew anything about this crazy new drink and many waited to see if it was going to have ‘legs’. Almost 8 years on, every café now simply has to have a chai latte on their menu. Demand for our product has grown strongly year on year and we don’t see any slowing down for the foreseeable future.
FFW: What do you think chai’s role is in the marketplace?
BONDI CHAI: Chai latte definitely fills a gap that café owners didn’t even know existed, but these days can’t ignore. The ‘coffee revolution’ left in its wake a huge pool of people who were reduced to drinking ‘un-sexy’ flat tea or ‘kiddies’ hot chocolate if they wanted to hang out with friends at their cafe.
Along comes chai latte – a sweet, frothy milk drink just like a café latte or a cappuccino, but with a delicious aroma and flavour – and suddenly these people don’t feel like the feather duster anymore; now they’re the rooster. They instantly fall in love with chai latte and tell all their friends – but then they hit a snag: no two chai latte brands taste the same and the differences can be about as far apart as Chamomile and English Breakfast tea. So now they have to hunt for a café that sells a good chai latte. And here’s where it becomes very important for the café owner – once a chai latte drinker finds a café selling their preferred chai they drag (physically if they have to!) their friends to that café. So the café owner smart enough to choose a good chai latte doesn’t just win a new chai zealot, they also win another two or three coffee drinkers. It’s not rocket science and we saw this in the US, but a lot of café owners still haven’t woken up to this yet.
FFW: How does Bondi Chai differ from more traditional chai offerings?
BONDI CHAI: Chai latte is based on India’s national drink, chai masala and the number and types of spices and teas that are used creates literally thousands of permutations. Recipes in India vary almost from village to village. The variety of tastes ranges from undrinkable to unbelievable! For several years before we created Bondi Chai we imported a US brand and had the good fortune to be able to watch and learn as the product exploded over there. We saw what worked, what didn’t work and had some very clear ‘footprints in the snow’ to follow. So when we created Bondi Chai we blended out the short-comings we’d found and blended in all the things we knew most chai latte drinkers preferred. That’s why we needed two flavours, why we went for a powder and why we insisted on the creaminess that only milk-soluble ingredients can give – all attributes that would appeal to the widest possible range of people who would not only like the product, they would LOVE IT! For the café owner, we wanted to make sure our product was profitable from day one, was fast and easy to make without any particular skills – and the end result was a consistently great drink.
To hear our product being referred to by the industry as the ‘gold standard’ chai latte and to see it being sold right around India itself leads us to believe that we got something right… and the effort was worth it.
FFW: Is it true that you are actually selling Bondi Chai to India? Where else are you triumphing?
BONDI CHAI: Bondi Chai Latte is the ‘official chai latte’ of one of India’s largest café chains. We are also sold into several smaller chains in India, one of which has outlets in Kathmandu. Some of the most prestigious hotels in India (and the world) sell our product, for example the Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi where it’s offered in their cafes, through room service and in their uber-exclusive Oberoi Patisserie & Delicatessen which I believe is one of those places where… “if you’ve got to ask the price, you can’t afford it!”
Through an agent we work with in Amsterdam we also have Bondi Chai Latte in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and the UK. We’ve also sold product into countries like Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Mauritius and we’re currently working with an agent in the US who is pitching Bondi Chai to one of the most prestigious retailers in the US – watch this space!
We recently calculated that somewhere in the world someone orders a Bondi Chai Latte every three seconds of every minute of every single day!
FFW: Does Bondi Chai boast any virtues with regard to health?
BONDI CHAI: Bondi Chai is certified gluten free. It is also low fat (98% fat free when made with skim dairy milk or any of the other ‘milks’); it’s low in caffeine (about ¼ the caffeine of espresso coffee, half that of tea and about the same as a green tea) we find a lot of caffeine addicts’ turning to our product in the afternoon when they want a hot milk drink without the extra caffeine. Bondi Chai has no trans-fatty acids; no artificial sweeteners or ‘industrial nasties’ in it – for example emulsifiers, whiteners, thickeners or anti-caking agents (which, incidentally, are regarded as ‘processing agents’ and are not therefore required to be listed on the ingredients panel).
FFW: How are your foodservice clients serving Bondi Chai, other than in its hot beverage format?
BONDI CHAI: We never cease to be amazed at where our product has turned up. In India we’ve seen whole cold-drink menus based on our product – from smoothies, to frappes, to straight iced. We’re also seeing an increasing number of chefs using it in desserts – virtually anything with a cream or custard base works wonderfully with either variety. One TV chef in Singapore actually made a glaze for pork spare ribs with our Club Cinnamon. And one of the largest Greek-style yoghurt makers in Australia has developed a Bondi Chai yoghurt.
FFW: What benefits are there for foodservice operators to use Bondi Chai?
BONDI CHAI: Its three main advantages are great profitability, high yield and simplicity/speed/consistency in preparation.
Excellent profitability is delivered by a very low per-serve cost (dosage rates are at least half those of any other powdered chai latte) and high popularity/consumption rates.
Bondi Chai’s gross yield is high – at an average sale price of $4/latte, Bondi Chai’s gross yield is $400 per 1kg pack.
It’s simple and fast to make – just add powder to cup or glass and stir while pouring on steamed milk or, for the absolute best results, add to milk in the steaming jug, steam and pour. Bondi Chai will attract/reinvigorate new chai latte drinkers who have perhaps given up on a chai latte currently being served – remembering that these new customers bring their coffee-drinking friends with them.
And, of course, café owners can be very proud to serve our product: it’s Australian-owned, is the most awarded, premium+ quality product of its kind in the country and finally, it’s backed by the experience and strong marketing support of the brand owners!
FFW: What does the future hold for Bondi Chai?
BONDI CHAI: Australian’s are going to see a lot more of Bondi Chai Latte in the next 12 months. We believe the product has proven itself and it’s now time to create stronger brand awareness. We’ll be backing that up with a much bigger retail presence which will mean more people will get to experience the Bondi Chai difference and, in turn, create greater demand in every area of food service. We have a new flavour in the pipeline, new packaging formats and some exciting co-branding opportunities. That’s in Australia. Overseas we are attracting interest from some potentially huge clients in Europe and the US, will be opening up distribution in South America and soon aim to finalise dealings with distributors in South Africa, Fiji and Iran.
FFW: What would the ultimate accolade be for you?
BONDI CHAI: We’ve already had some amazing accolades for our product: people like Nicole Kidman, HRH Princess Mary of Denmark, Ricky Lee Coulter and Livinia Nixon have all told us how much they enjoyed Bondi Chai. Eddie Maguire declared it to be the best chai latte in Australia on his brekky show a few years ago (no we didn’t pay him, but we did send him a complimentary pack for his kind words). We used to say that when our product was sold in India we could say that we’d “made it”, but we’ve ticked that box and I think we still get the biggest buzz when a person comes up to our stand in a food show somewhere, tries one small mouthful of our product and says: “Wow. This is amaaaazing!”
In a twist on a coffee expression, we’d like to remind readers that: “Life is too short for ordinary chai”. Clearly, Bondi Chai delivers far more than flavour and sensory pleasure. High profit margin, Australian pride and ease of preparation are all significant reasons to start serving Bondi Chai to your customers, or stocking it in your retail store.
Wholesale chai is available in 1kg foil caterers’ packs containing 100 serves, 250g packs for 25 serves and also in packs of 100 sachet sticks for convenience and portability. Contact Bondi Chai for sample packs to discover for yourself why even the Indians are buying this fabulous Aussie-made product!