To celebrate Mother’s Day, we poured a cup of chai and sat down with Upinder Virdi, Uppma’s mother, to find out how important chai is to her and how she involves it in her daily life (which gave us a bit of insight in to Uppma as well - and explained so much!).
Chai Walli: Hello Upinder, thank you for your time! Let’s get right into it...
Where were you born, and what is your earliest memory of drinking chai?
Upinder Virdi: I was born in Tarn Taran in Punjab, India.
I think my earliest memory was when I was 5 or 6 years old. I think that since that age, I was drinking chai every day. When we were children we didn’t have chai with black tea, so there was no caffeine. It was just the beautiful spices with milk.
CW: What does chai mean to you?
UV: Everything. In the morning I really need chai, I need it to start my day. Chai is a very big and important part of our body and our world!
CW: How often do you drink chai?
UV: Every morning and every night time. And sometimes many times more during the day. I do drink a lot of chai.
In Indian families, chai is used to celebrate happiness, but also sadness. For example, when someone dies, you say to the family - “come to my house and have chai.”
CW: And what about milk and sugar?
UV: I always have milk with chai (you have to!), mostly it’s cows milk but sometimes even goats milk. We used to always have jaggery in chai, and I still like that sometimes, but it is not good to have too much sugar, so a lot of the times I don’t use jaggery or any sugar. Coconut sugar can be nice too though!
CW: Do you have any secret ways of making your chai (that you can share with us)?
UV: I make chai the way Uppma, my daughter, makes chai - by boiling it on the stove top. My secret ingredients are always focus and positive thinking.
CW: Why do you think Uppma started her chai business?
UV: Because of her Grandfather, my father-in-law, who was an Ayurvedic doctor in Punjab in India. He always made chai, and Uppma loved it.
Then when she was travelling overseas, she was in Austria and it was cold and snowing. She would make a big container of chai and serve it to all the people. She made chai to bring people together. I think from that point she could see how special it was, and that’s where she started to think about the business.
CW: As her mother, what makes you the most proud about Uppma and her business?
UV: I really can’t explain it in a word. My husband and my family, we are so proud of her. All of the relatives are so proud, especially as she is carrying on some of the work of her Grandfather, sharing spices and tea with people.
She has won some awards over the years and we always are over the moon each time!
CW: We know that sometimes you help Uppma with her business. What are your favourite jobs when working for Chai Walli?
UV: I love to help my daughter. My favourite job is packing the chai into the bags for customers. Pouring in the chai, putting on the stickers. When I help out, I put on meditation music and then I always pack with positivity and love. I hope that her customers will feel this when they drink a cup of the chai.
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CW: What can you see for the future of Chai Walli?
UV: Sometimes I dream that Chai Walli will be available in every shopping centre, in every country!
CW: Lastly, if you had any advice for young women out there, following their passions in business, what would it be?
UV: Stay focussed, and always put positivity and love into everything that you are doing.
A big thank you to Upinder for taking the time out of her busy schedule - she still works full time plus has a gorgeous grandson, Arjan (who you may have seen on instagram as a bit of a Chai Walli mascot), who she looks after most days. It really does seem that chai runs through the veins of this family - and so many other families around the world! How is chai enjoyed in your family?