Tea is traditionally marketed with images of classic teapot and cup sets or cozy vignettes featuring sofas and knitted cardigans. However, the drink, and the way we think about it, has been changing in recent years as a new generation of brands connect with a younger and wider fan base around the world. According to data collected by market research firm The Brainy Insights, the global tea market was valued at USD 52 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual g.
an annual growth rate of 7.2 percent to US$104.2 billion between 2023 and 2032. One of the brands helping to redefine the way we think about tea is the aptly named US start-up Chaiboy. From Best Friends to Brand Owners Growing up together in Houston, Texas, childhood friends Abhilaksh Sundaram and Samir Kavadi always envisioned creating a brand together, but didn’t know what kind of business they wanted to create until the pandemic hit in 2020. That era, they were on completely different career paths: Kavadi worked as a financial planning analyst and Sundaram as a financial consultant. But with the shift to telecommuting, they had extra time on their hands and began to question whether they were truly satisfied with the work they were doing. As Sundaram recalls to Inside Retail, “I’m sure for many aspiring entrepreneurs, Covid has been a time of reflection, especially when you’re in your early 20s when you think, ‘Am I really doing what I love?'” There are so many questions that It wasn’t until the two happened to be friends in a grocery store one day, scanning up and down the tea aisle, that they understood. “It was always the same packaging, the same blends, the same experience. Tea to us was such a beautiful beverage, but we couldn’t understand why people weren’t so enthusiastic about the tea. [other luxury goods] like fashion, perfume and alcohol,” said Sundaram. “Then the light bulb moment hit and we knew we wanted to go on this adventure together in the tea industry.” Having studied at the EHL Hospitality Business School in Switzerland, Sundaram already had an interest in the luxury goods sector and the hospitality industry and dreamed of developing a product that combined these two sectors. Together with Kavadi, he decided to focus his efforts on elevating the experience of drinking tea, or chai, as it is called in many parts of the world, and also to give the drink a modern twist. This is also what inspired the name of the beverage and lifestyle brand, derived from the Hindu term chaiwala, also known as chai boy, which refers to a male tea seller. The founders wanted a name that paid homage to their Indian American heritage and also had a playful ring to it. As the idea for Chaiboy took shape, the co-founders studied tea production and created the brand’s four core tea blends. With funds drained from their time working in finance, they officially launched Chaiboy in 2021. Since then, Sundaram and Kavadi have expanded their core offering to include seven varieties of tea, created four tea blends to be used in cocktails and the like specialty beverages , and several apparel items, including clothing dyed by the brand’s breweries. Currently, the founders are focused on selling direct-to-consumer online and catering to bars and restaurants specializing in tea-infused beverages. They have a long-term goal of shedding new light on a classic drink. As Kavadi explained, “The goal is to hopefully one day own our own brick-and-mortar space to curate the environment for our ideal customer to see and enjoy our brand. But right now, it’s about maintaining the relationships we have right now – the ones that make sure we’re represented in the right way and that illuminate the story of why we started this in the first place.”