Self-described hippie Brook Eddy had a revelation back in 2002.
After listening to an NPR program about Swadhyaya, a religious movement that began in Western India in the 1950s, she decided to move to South Asia to learn more.
As she began her spiritual journey she also became enamored with what is perhaps the region’s favorite drink — chai, or as Eddy calls it “chai tea.” After returning to her home in Boulder, Colorado she began looking for places she could purchase chai that was reminiscent to the brew she had in India, but was unsuccessful.
“I realized the recipe I had crafted for myself, a fiery fresh ginger chai, could be produced for cafés and retailers to bring people not only ‘India in a cup,’ but build a mission-driven company on the tenants of bhakti,” Eddy told Inc magazine. After seeing how popular her personal chai recipe was among friends and family, she decided to begin selling the drink in mason jars out of her car.
Today, Eddy’s company Bhakti Chai has earned about $35 million since its founding and can be found in stores like Whole Foods and Costco.
@incmagazine recognizes @brookbhakti as America’s 21st century master chaiwallah (Hindi for chai merchant.) ✨ Link in bio. . . . . . . #entrepreneur #foodie #freshginger #fairtrade #bcorp #gitagiving #chai #bestchairever #bhakti #devotion #singlemom #vegan #tea #masala #boulder #bouldercolorado #jaipurlitfest #jaipur #jlf
But many South Asians on Twitter were less than pleased with both the coverage of Eddy’s business and her treatment of traditional South Indian recipes. When Inc. first tweeted Eddy’s story, the news organization was bombarded with tweets about Eddy’s definition of chai.
“Because India really needed a white person to come figure out to do chai properly?” the journalist Nithin Coca asked the company in response to the piece. Many others pointed out the redundancy of calling anything “chai tea.” “Ah yes I love drinking Tea Tea,” wrote another reader.
What do you think? Is Eddy appropriating South Asian recipes? Or is she a smart businessperson who saw a market for her product? Tweet us your thoughts at @thetealmango.