'Cutting' to the chase

A new crop of start-ups is helping you get your daily tea fix, reinventing the friendly neighbourhood chai tapri

Vishal Koul

A cold winter evening leaves one yearning for a hot beverage. And no matter how much of a cappuccino person you are, no other drink can slake that thirst as well as a steaming glass of elaichi-adrak masala chai. In fact, so sure are the founders of tea café (a misnomer though that might be) chains such as Chai Point, Tea Trails and Chaayos about their offerings that they think you will spurn the CCDs of the world for their doors. “The consumption of tea in India is ten times that of coffee. While there are nearly 3,000 cafés dedicated to coffee, there were no comparable upmarket places for tea. This is why we decided to go ahead with Chaayos,” says co-founder Raghav Verma. Along with Nitin Saluja, Verma launched his first tea café in November 2012, taking the number to 25 — two in Mumbai and 23 in Delhi NCR — by 2016. “We have stores at DLF Promenade, GIP Noida and Connaught Place in Delhi and Bandra and Juhu in Mumbai.” Verma adds that Chaayos’ very first outlet — at DLF Cyber City in Delhi — received a huge response in its first month of operations. “We started with an average footfall of 100-150 per day and broke even by the 3rd month,” he says. “It was a great testing ground for us. People loved our products, after which we introduced new items in the food and chai categories,” explains Verma, adding that the current average footfall at the same branch is 700 a day.