Behind every small business' product and website is a team of dedicated, and downright awesome people! And Chai Walli is no different. What started as a side hustle for Uppma whilst she was a commercial lawyer in Melbourne, has now grown to an amazing team, a warehouse in Sydney, and a netflix film that probably should have run the idea past our boss lady before they began filming....
So, settle in with a hot cup of your finest, and get to know the amazing team!
Introducing, the Walli's and Wallah's behind Chai Walli....
- - - - -
Meet Uppma #ChaiQueen
Hey Uppma! Can you tell us a little about your role at Chai Walli?
Sure thing. My role at CW is a bit of everything and no two days look the same. My role is developing new recipes and working closely with our ingredients. Managing our wholesale relationships, having product meetings with shops and cafes. Sourcing new supplies and suppliers through sampling, testing and relationship building. Managing my lovely team by problem solving with them, training them and strategising with them!
Oh and of course all the other “stuff” involved in running a business like BAS, accounts, finance, legal and I have also appointed myself as the IT guru of the team.
What is your favourite product in the Chai Walli chai range and why?
I get asked this question a lot but the honest answer is I love all of them. It depends on how I’m feeling in the morning, afternoon or evening that depicts what product I’m using. For example, this morning I felt pretty energetic and wanted a grounding blend that was also warming as the weather was cold so I made myself our Lemongrass Chai but added extra cloves to it. Last night I had an early dinner and wanted something indulgent before I went to sleep which was more than a herbal tea so I made myself some our Turmeric Latte with our honey - it was divine.
I’ve created the chai blends to suit different moods and feelings so they’re all my favourite on different days or feelings haha!
But if I go back to basics, the 11 Spice Chai blend will always hold a special place in my heart. That blend is inspired by my grandfather. It is why I started Chai Walli and it was the only product that I blended and sold for many years until I grew the family and created some sisters for her.
Which is your favourite tea in our Ayurvedic Herbal Range + why?
I don’t want to come across as cheesy, but this definitely would be the same answer as above, sorry! Again, I formulated these three blends for myself initially. The Digestion was for anytime I felt heavy or bloated after a big meal. The Relax and Unwind was for any time I needed something grounding that I could drink as a hot tea but also that tasted delicious as an iced tea. And the last one of the bunch, the Skin Glow I created to help detoxify from the inside out with a really unique taste.
At present my mood these days is likening the Relax and Unwind, maybe because it’s close to Xmas and there’s a lot going on at the CW HQs so the extra grounding is much needed!
What is your favourite item in our chai accessories or gift range + why?
Omg, I love the Chai Soap that Jade from Yve and Crow makes for us - it’s the only soap allowed in our shower. It leaves my skin feeling naturally moisturised and it’s just the best feeling seeing the care in which Jade has used to make these soaps. You can actually see the chai brown colours through the soap - it’s incredible. It takes her 6 weeks to make them and she used our 11 Spice Chai blend in it!
Oh and I love our Chai Chocolate also made by another Melbourne small business called Monsieur Truffe (best chocolate ever). It’s incredible that we’ve been able to work with other small businesses to collaborate and create babies from our products together.
I think our Chai Kettles are pretty banging! They’re traditional, rustic and remind me of all the beautiful chai experiences I’ve had in India. We always sell out of these every time they’re in stock. They just look so nostalgic.
In terms of gifting, I think our Ultimate Chai Treats Pack is seriously the ULTIMATE indulgent gift (hence why we called it ULTIMATE) haha! It’s got our favourite masala chai blends in it, including our chai infused soy candle (which we make ourselves in our warehouse in small batches), the chai chocolate and the chai soap.
Sorry, I think I did it again - I HONESTLY LOVE EVERYTHING WE CREATE (or else why would I choose to sell it?).
Do you have a favourite spice or herb from our Uppma’s Pantry range? Why do you love it or how do you use it at home?
Hmmmmmmm okay I’m going to choose 3.
- My Mum’s Garam Masala - this blend has my take on it so it can be used in literally ANYTHING! I’ve used my Mum’s original recipe but added my twist to it by dry roasting each ingredient and then grinding it. I use it in scrambled eggs, Japanese curries, dhals, sabji’s (dry Indian stir fries) and in my veggie burgers. It’s honestly the most versatile and delicious spice blend I’ve made (for cooking).
- Asafoetida (hing) - This is the best, I use hing in only my Indian cooking and add it to my initial tadka. I don’t cook much with onion or garlic for my Indian cooking (Italian is a different story), so I use more hing to replace those flavours but to also achieve a punchy and floral taste.
- I think that it’s super important to also have a range of spices in your pantry which are easily accessible either in bags, jars or in a spice box. That way you can explore different spices, herbs and flavours and tweak your cooking and chai brewing according to how you’re feeling (like I did in the initial question by adding cloves to Lemongrass Chai).
Cooking and preparing food is not just a necessity, it’s a sensory art form that allows you to explore how you’re feeling and what your body needs on that day.
Describe your perfect chai-drinking experience - that might be describing the setting, the mood, the occasion or just the mug!
Oh I love making and drinking chai to music in the morning. I have a playlist just for this purpose on spotify, you can find it here. I have a favourite sacred chai drinking spot on my couch next to the window. It's here that I can ponder whilst watching the steam of the chai cup disappear above me. This is my favourite time to quieten my mind and enjoy my chai.
Do you have a favourite memory that involves chai, or tea in general?
Weekends with my parents, usually a lazy Sunday upstairs in the sunroom with dad’s hair free from his daily turban, washed and oiled. Reading the paper next to him. Mum playing the harmonium or just talking about life and memories in India. Bulk pots of chai made and multiple cups consumed with milk rusks biscuits dipped into the mugs. Just happiness and pure joy
When you’re not working at Chai Walli, what are your favourite past-times?
I love cooking, currently I’m swooning over all things ottolenghi!
I also love to dance - free form, rnb and bhangra are my favourites! I do love watching flamenco but haven’t tried it yet.
I love to write and do some spoken word poetry
My partner and I love hiking and going on week long expeditions, but since our last hike on the overland where it was snowing and raining for most of the time, we're still recovering lol!
I also play soccer, which I’ve played since I was a teen! It’s so much fun :)
When I want a bit of a creative outlet I paint and draw. And when I’m feeling like I need some grounding, I’ll hop over to the Ladies Baths in Coogee for a swim!
What's the meaning of life?
I feel like life is an endless journey of finding balance and purpose. But the thing is, you’re never going to be ready. So for me, the meaning of life is to live truly with authenticity, passionately with sincerity and joyfully with kindness in whatever you choose to do. It’s the small things that matter that make a difference, helping that struggling person with their massive box into their home - they’ll remember that and hopefully they’ll do that for someone else thus creating a ripple effect. You don’t need to be an activist to make change happen, you can create change within yourself to see change everywhere else.
Are you more a savoury or sweet person?
I’m just a food person haha.
How has covid19 affected you personally, and what insights have you gained about yourself from it?
Hmmmm…. Lockdown didn’t really change my life too much as I was already set up to WFH and work in the warehouse, we still remained open as we’re an essential business supplying cafes with products and we aren’t public facing. I moved to Sydney a few years ago and most of my beautiful family and friends are in Melbourne so for me it was not being to visit Melbourne and see them regularly or have them visit which really hit hard.
But for me, lockdown was really about going back to basics and slowing down and being okay with not having a fast paced life. And that was a lesson for me which took some time to embrace, but when I did it was really beautiful and much needed!
- - - - - -
Phew! So there you have it! If you've got this far, that means you're a Chai Walli #superfan and we love you for it!
Our team is so integral to everything that we produce, and there is so much love behind every blend, every box and every bhangra dance! Thanks for coming on this journey with us.
Chai kisses xx