A Conversation with Farah Jesani from One Stripe Chai

Chatting with Chief Chai Officer Farah Jesani about all things chai, One Stripe Chai and summer beverages.

For our Summer Beverages Field Guide, we sat down with Chief Chai Officer, Farah Jesani of One Stripe Chai. One Stripe Chai is a South Asian beverage company that brings you authentic, high quality chai. We discussed their products, summer beverages and her favorite ways to drink chai including with Ritz crackers! 

Stranger’s Guide: What prompted you to start One Stripe Chai? 

Farah Jesani: I started it kind of by accident. I used to live in New York City and worked in tech consulting, but I felt like it wasn’t satisfying and I didn’t feel like I was doing the things that made me feel happy. And around that same time, I was getting very interested in specialty coffee. I quit my job in New York and I ended up venturing out to Portland, Oregon and thought, like, let me kind of immerse myself in the coffee scene. Portland is a big specialty coffee city. But what I realized was those shops were selling really great coffee, but really bad chai.

And to me, it felt like there’s a disconnect here. Chai, which is a very global beverage and is kind of the lifeblood of a lot of countries in Asia, is being treated as a line item on a menu here in the US. I realized that most coffee shops don’t have stovetops, so they can’t make a traditional pot of chai and they rely on these pre-brewed liquid concentrates or powder blends that I wasn’t in love with.

So I started thinking, can we just make a better option for coffee shops? That was the original purpose of the company and our hero product is a liquid chai concentrate that we sell to coffee shops and the food service world.Then the pandemic happened and overnight, all of our customers closed their shops and we had to decide what we were going to do. I had always wanted to sell a looseleaf line as well so people could learn to make chai at home. We decided to pivot and launch our Chai Me At Home Blend and our turmeric latte blend called, It’s Haldi Doodh. And so we launched those two products and our ecommerce really started to take off.


SG: Why is Chai important to you?

FJ: As someone who is first generation American and an Indian Muslim woman—there’s a lot of minorities in minorities—it’s really important to me and is a huge part of my identity. For me to see this product not be taken seriously was really sad, especially given the historical context of the product.

Chai is a drink that brings so many people together. I think it’s an insanely powerful drink. A lot of people think of chai as this ancient Indian drink. It’s not. If you look at the history of chai in India, tea only really grew in certain parts of India as a wild plant. It wasn’t really cultivated or being used in the way it is now until the British were colonizing the area, saw that tea grew here naturally and started building plantations. And that was only in the 1800s, and South Asians only started drinking chai a little bit after that in the early 1900s. So it’s not really that old and it’s steeped in crazy history.

When I started One Stripe Chai, there weren’t really any South Asians that were representing these companies or recipes of the chai being offered at the time. And so I felt like that was a great opportunity and place where I felt genuinely interested and it was really cool because I get to learn a lot about my own identity.


SG: Are there regional differences when it comes to chai? 

FJ: There’s definitely a couple of regional differences. I think lemongrass in chai is something that I’ve heard of being done a lot in the Western Gujarat region. But I think of it not by region but more so from person to person or family to family. The way I grew up drinking chai is very different taste-wise and recipe-wise from my husband’s family. And then within our own family, my aunts make chai differently than my grandfather or than my mom. Whenever I’ve gone to India, there’s so many different languages, people look different wherever you go, cultures vary, there are so many religions. But no matter where you go in India, you will get something that resembles a cup of chai. And what’s really cool is that there is really no perfect cup of chai because it’s so personal.


SG: What do you think are some misconceptions about chai and what do you want people to know about it? 

FJ: I think there’s a subset of people who don’t like spices and so they think they can’t drink chai. But you don’t have to have chai that’s super spice heavy. For example our rose chai is very mellow and we have a mint chai that’s a little more refreshing.

Also, the word chai means tea. So even if you add no spices to it whatsoever and brew up black tea leaves with water and milk, that’s a cup of plain chai. And that’s okay, you can do that. It doesn’t have to be very spice heavy.

Another misconception is people think chai has coffee in it. Over the course of starting the company, I have had a lot more people than you would think ask me if there’s coffee in the products.


SG: What is your favorite way to drink chai? 

FJ: The Chai Me At Home is definitely my go to, those are the flavors that I love in chai—cardamom first, a little ginger, and then pepper in the back. But if it’s a day where I don’t want a spice chai, our Gulab City rose chai blend is my second. It has such a good rose flavor that’s so subtle but there and it smells really good and looks so beautiful.

My favorite way of drinking chai and how I grew up drinking it is with Ritz crackers. That’s my jam, it just really hits.


SG: What is your favorite summer beverage? 

FJ: I did not grow up drinking iced chai, that is not a very traditional thing and I’m not an iced beverage person at all. I drink hot beverages throughout the year. But in the summer, growing up, when it was really hot, my mom would always use rose syrup—Rooh Afza is a really well known brand of rose syrup that you can find in Indian stores—with water. So a whole glass of ice with cold water with rose syrup in it was our summer jam.

Our Aam Aam Nom, mango tea blend is very much a summer drink. It’s so great on ice and is very refreshing. We launched our Leeli Chai, the lemongrass in it gives it a very citrusy flavor and our Mint Mahal is also so refreshing. All three of them are great as either a chai or hot tea, but also as bases for other drinks. You can make cocktails out of them or make a very concentrated version and add lemonade, so the intention around those three blends was for them to be more flexible and able to be used in other cool ways. On our website, we have some recipes you can follow or use for inspiration.


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