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Lavanya Bahuguna

Blogger-in-Chief

We Put The Kettle On The Stove While The Australian ChaiWalli Uppma Virdi Served Us Her Story

  • IWB Post
  •  July 1, 2019

 

Never have I ever tasted chai in my entire life. So when I got a chance to speak to the famous Australia-based Chaiwalli (a female tea maker and seller), my Q&A ability was rather in a questionable mode.

Indian-origin Uppma Virdi loves creating her own ayurvedic chai blends that are not only 100 percent natural but also have various Indian healing spices in them. Where has she learned them from, you may ask? It’s her doctor grandfather who specialized in spices. Today, she handles a tea café inspired by the tea culture in India and supplies tea products all over the world under the brand name Chai Walli. What more? Forbes has named her in their ‘30 under 30’ Asia list for 2017 Retail & Ecommerce. Say whaaa!?!

Going back to our roots ❤️ Traditionally chai is served from a stainless steel kettle + poured into small chai glasses from a height to cool the chai down, create some foam (chai art) + to obviously add a cinematic experience to the art ? #bollywood #chaiwalli #getspicy #drinkchai #freshtodeath ? by @photosbyjeevs ?

350 Likes, 10 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “Going back to our roots ❤️ Traditionally chai is served from a stainless steel kettle + poured into…”

So whether you’re head over heels in love with tea or not, I insist you to read the conversation I brewed with the woman herself!

Let us begin by talking about your family, friends, and hobbies, shall we?

Sure! I was born in Mohali and moved to Melbourne with my family when I was one. I was brought up with my cultural values and traditions here, which was an interesting journey for me being a first generation migrant. Melbourne is the multicultural hub of Australia and so I have friends from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures – Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, Australian, New Zealand, Sri Lankan, etc. My hobbies include hiking, writing poetry, dancing, public speaking, playing soccer, and definitely, traveling!

Are your people equally crazy about chai?

My family is my number one (free) customer – they drink the most amounts of chai than anyone I’ve ever met! I give my mum a chai allowance, but she always manages to need more regardless how much I give her. Ha-ha!

In that case, I am sure you have many tea-memories to share.

The earliest memory would be running around the house and sneaking into the lounge room while mum and her friends were gossiping about God knows what. I used to grab a Parle-G biscuit to dip in her chai, only to drop half of it in her cup and run away as she scolded me. Ha-ha!

My other memory is being sick and mum preparing some Ayurvedic chai blends for me to get better, just like how my grandfather had liked. It always managed to soothe my throat and bring me the warmth.

What important lessons did you learn from your grandfather about churning spices in Ayurvedic tea?

That balancing and sense is everything. It’s mostly about the balance. No food scientist can tell you what your sense tells you. I use my inner judgment to balance all our teas and spices and I use my deep understanding of Ayurvedic spices to proportion my ingredients to exactitude.

my grandad. a doctor who used to make his own ayurvedic chai blends + sell it from his dispensary. he is the reason i started #chaiwalli. his knowledge for healing spices + art of creating the most perfectly balanced blends is what inspires me to share this art with you. he said my chai was very very good. ?❤? #cwindia

153 Likes, 13 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “my grandad. a doctor who used to make his own ayurvedic chai blends + sell it from his dispensary….”

You happen to be a law student, right. How did that happen?

Law happened right after I finished my high school, it was a career that I was socially conditioned to think was the one and only path for me. But, guess what, life had other plans for where it was going to take me.

When you love what you do, you have a smile like that ❤️ When you follow your heart + intuition, you get to become what you truly are meant to be. #chaiwalli started as a dream, grew by intuition and became a passion fuelled business. Specialising in high grade Indian + Ayurvedic teas, our mission is to educate you on the India culture of chai + Ayurveda ? #madewithlove #shoplocal #smallbusiness #dedication #friyay #chaiday #tgif Photo by @juniormistry58

365 Likes, 11 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “When you love what you do, you have a smile like that ❤️ When you follow your heart + intuition,…”

You often use the hashtag #Chaigasm on your Instagram handle. What’s your favorite #Chaigasm moment?

Psst, that has to be the first sip of chai early in the morning. Or, any first sip of chai for that matter!

During an interview, you mentioned how difficult it was to find good tea spots in Australia. Did that inspire you to establish ChaiWalli?

Very much. Australia is a huge on coffee. We get the best coffee in Melbourne and everyone is coffee-trained here. However, chai is not that recognized due to a lack of education and understanding – that’s where ChaiWalli plays an important role. We use social media to educate and share this information and also conduct workshops to educate and provide training to people to develop a deeper understanding of chai.

Handcrafted chai, derived from my grandfathers ancient Ayurvedic recipe. Each spice is balanced according to its unique energy. Fennel seeds are cooling + are used to balance hot spices like cloves. Straight outta India, our chai is as real as it gets ❤️ #chaiwalli #mornings #supportlocal #realdeal #teaparty Henna by @hennabyalisaparveen, photo by @sebastianavila, hands of @uppma + style by @athvo_ ?

144 Likes, 7 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “Handcrafted chai, derived from my grandfathers ancient Ayurvedic recipe. Each spice is balanced…”

How often do you travel to India to study more about the tea culture?

The tea culture is ingrained in every Indian. Like peace, people search for it and travel to find it, agree? I do travel to India for business and learn more about the differences in the tea culture. One thing that resonates with me is that no matter where you go in India and how many varieties of languages, religions, cultures, clothing styles you may find, chai always remains a common ground that brings all of us together.

Which Indian state, you think, produces the best tea?

ASSAM! Assamese tea gardens look stunning and smell impeccable.

Is there anything that you absolutely love about the Indian (tea) culture and want the Australian society to recognize?

That chai is the national drink of India and it is a deep part of our culture which we cannot live without. Strangers connect over chai, families celebrate and mourn over chai, communities come together over chai, multimillion dollar deals are made over chai – it’s ingrained in us. Chai needs to be understood, it needs to be given the respect it deserves in terms of its history and how it’s made.

Our signature black chai ☕️ 11 of the finest quality paired with the highest grade organic black tea from the Assam Valley. Each spice is included for its known remedial + Ayurvedic properties. We balance them by their energies of earth, water, fire, space + air ❤️#chaiwalli #madewithlove #smallbatch #organic #shoplocal #awardwinning

290 Likes, 19 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “Our signature black chai ☕️ 11 of the finest quality paired with the highest grade organic black…”

Also, according to the famous Indian Mehman-nawazi, we believe in over-feeding the guests. What do you have to say about it?

It’s beautiful and it’s a strong part of who I am, no-one leaves me without being fed and full. Be it a friend or even a stranger, I will give them chai and food until they burst! It’s my way to let them into my culture and way of life.

I am guessing you freaked out when you received the news of being awarded by the Indian-Australian Business and Community. 

Complete utter shock – a young woman like me who had a simple mission to share the Indian culture of chai winning Business Woman of the Year?!?! At the same time, I was so humbled and grateful – it’s a feeling of happiness that still brings me to tears.

Now here come some quick questions. Favorite tea-snack?

Saunf Milk Rusks, Parle G biscuits, Mum’s pinniya, any sort of cake, and of course, samosa!

Who would you like to send #ChaiKisses & #ChaiCuddles to, your other favorite hashtags?

Hahahahah. Look, as long as the chai kiss is a virtual one then that’s fine! But in reality, there’s only one special guy that I’ll be giving real life chai kisses to.

How did you meet him, if I may ask?

I actually met him over chai when I used to live in Graz (Austria) and we are now getting married later this year! It’s going to be a huge chai party!

OMG, congratulations! Moving on, what’s up with that cute Chai-nail-art?

It’s my way of expressing myself in a quirky way!

im a serious business lady. so serious that i even get cups of chai + star anise babies painted on my nails by @trophywifenailart ? ! #nailswag #chai #chaiwalli #trophywife #supportlocal #melbournechai #melbournecafe

63 Likes, 7 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “im a serious business lady. so serious that i even get cups of chai + star anise babies painted on…”

they say your nails are a reflection of yourself. damn right they are! @trophywifenailart helps me embrace true chairacter ?? #chaiobsessed #chaiwalli #chaiaddict #pun #trophywife #nailswag

112 Likes, 11 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “they say your nails are a reflection of yourself. damn right they are! @trophywifenailart helps me…”

 And I see you do food experiments with CHAI? How did you come up with this?

Yeah! I infuse chai in everything and I’ve created trends where some shops now sell out chai in their products like chai ice cream, chai crème brulee, chai donuts, chai chocolate, chai candles, chai everything!

CHAI PANCAKES! ? These babies are #chaiwalli vegan pancakes infused with our delicious chai + handmade by our fav food blogger @nomadicfitfoodie ✌?Monika, when you are inviting us over for breaky? ?? #happychaiday #friyay #breakfastofchampions #pancakes

132 Likes, 11 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “CHAI PANCAKES! ? These babies are #chaiwalli vegan pancakes infused with our delicious chai +…”

I want chai, but I also want orange juice + chocolate for breakfast ? so @nomadicfitfoodie dipped her oranges in chocolate + coated them with #chaiwalli ? Problem fixed ??❤️ #breakfast #orange #oitnb #foodinspiration

137 Likes, 11 Comments – Chai Walli (Tea Lady) (@chai_walli) on Instagram: “I want chai, but I also want orange juice + chocolate for breakfast ? so @nomadicfitfoodie dipped…”

Lastly, any dream guest you want to invite over for tea?

Honestly, I already have the dream person that I’ll never get tired of having chai with – my mum.

Like her story? Tell us in the comments below!

This article was first published in August 2017.

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