Move over cafes, teafes are here! The rise in disposable income, changes in tastes, and introduction of new flavours and tastes have fuelled market growth and led to a boom in the number of tea startups operating in India.
This one beverage is undoubtedly India’s cup of tea. It may have been discovered in China centuries ago, but Indians give the Chinese tough competition when it comes to drinking – and loving – their daily chai.
The consumption volume of tea in India was approximately one billion kilograms during FY20. However, it’s only in the past few years, tea has started gaining a luxurious patina, unlike coffee, which was considered a stylish drink from the very beginning.
The rise in the bandwagon of startups like Chaayos, ChaiPoint, and Vahdam Teas, among others, gave the Indian tea market a modernised appeal. Not only did it attract foreign investors to their table but also opened the gates to global markets.
While many of these brands have already gained huge popularity, there are several that are yet to find the success they are seeking. On International Tea Day, we list 12 Indian tea startups that every tea lover must keep an eye on.
Consistency and innovation the two things that propel growth – Chai Point’s Amuleek Singh
Launched in 2017 by brothers Rupan and Raunak Oberoi and cousin Karan Chadha, Amaara Herbs brings together different varieties of teas and herb blends. This includes Ashwagandha, Shatavari, Gokshura, Basil, Tulsi, Gotu Kola, and Stevia to name a few.
Amaara Herbs’ retails products via several ecommerce sites, including Amazon, Flipkart, and HealthKart. They also retail via their own website. With herbs being a highly perishable product, the team ensures that the latest produce reaches a potential buyer within the minimum time span. To ensure the freshness of the teas and blends, the team decided to send the cargo by air against shipping it. While this added to the cost, it helped maintain freshness.
Guwahati-based Aromica Tea was founded in 2018 by husband and wife duo, Ranjit and Dolly Sharma Baruah. The startup offers 30 tea blends. Popular varieties include chamomile tea, tulsi green tea, blue tea, patent-pending bhut jolokia tea, saffron tea, yellow tea, oolong tea, moringa tulsi green tea, and turmeric tea.
Aromica sources tea leaves from small-sized tea plantation owners in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The leaves are available in 50 gm or 100 gm packs and cost between Rs 250 and Rs 600.
The tea startup aims to expand its footprint to Australia before Christmas this year and is also planning to launch in the UK and North America. Making products available in 5,000 outlets across India and creating 75 tea blends is also on the anvil.
Set up in 2012, Buddies Cafe in Coimbatore serves over 70 varieties of tea. From the classic Sulaimani to Japanese matcha tea, South African rooibos tea, English breakfast, earl grey, German herbal-based tea, Egyptian pure chamomile, and Austrian fruit-based infusions, Buddies Cafe has teas to cater to all kinds of tastes. Its clientele includes walk-ins, door deliveries, corporate orders, tea subscriptions, high-tea parties, and tea packaging. It generates revenues from a franchise fee and royalty as well.
This chain of tea outlets based out of Noida provides the experience of a roadside thela (cart). They provide freshly brewed tea in a modern version of a roadside cart, offering hygienic tea at an affordable price point. They follow the kiosk model and focus on IT parks and colleges. The startup was founded in 2015 by Pankaj Judge and Nitin Chaudhary, alumni of IIT Kharagpur. The company has raised Rs 1.5 crore from Delhi-based VC firm Quarizon.
Founded by Anubha Jhawar, this Delhi-based startup was launched in July 2020. Anubha spent most of 2019 formulating various tea blends. By the end of it, the entrepreneur was ready to launch a tea startup with 19 different blends, including Choco Spice, Serendipity, Orange Escape, Mind Body Soul, and Her Majesty.
Priced between Rs 500 and Rs 900, Anubha designed packages of 60 gm to encourage people to try different blends of tea. Besides the website, the products are available on Amazon as well.
Elizabeth Yambem launched Dweller Teas in 2017 with an investment of Rs 20 lakh from her savings. Based in Manipur, Dweller Teas sells flavoured teas with options such as olive, lemongrass ginger, raw mango mint, and ginger green tea. It also offers black rice products such as black rice cookie mix and black rice cake mix.
Dweller Teas has three cafes in Imphal, Manipur. Later, the founder decided to launch an ecommerce platform to sell products across India. The startup aims to promote local produce and healthy tea and is also working to create job opportunities in the region.
The prices of the products range between Rs 50 and Rs 460 and the packs are available in three sizes – sample pack (three tea bags), medium pack (18 tea bags), and everyday pack (50 tea bags).
Launched in July 2020 amid the pandemic, Infused Kettle has partnered exclusively with a tea garden complete with a kitchen and a chef to create original flavours. Some of its blends include green tea with lemongrass, hibiscus tea, masala chai, kawa, kara, white oolong tea, and a range of floral teas, with prices between Rs 4,000 and Rs 20,000 per kg. It is sold on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
The founder Shalini Raj is now building an ecommerce platform for The Infused Kettle and plans to make it available on ecommerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart soon. Focused on B2C operations, the startup is open to distributors in India as well. At present, it is in the initial stage of introducing summer brews and wants to expand internationally, to the US, Europe, or Canadian markets.
Mangaldoi, Assam-based Ruloi Tea delivers fresh Assam teas from small growers directly to consumers. Ruloi has some authorised retail partners in India, and abroad. It claims to have 50 percent growth every month. Currently, in the seed stage, it recently raised an investment of Rs 60 lakh. With almost 40 tea variants (Chakrasila Orthodox Black Tea, Wekhaj Handmade Organic Classic Black Tea, Organic Blue Tea, etc) at the moment, it is developing around 60 more, which it plans to launch by next year.
Launched in April 2016 by Bhuman Dani and Shariq Ashraf, TGL is a speciality tea and coffee brand retailing at more than 300 outlets across Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Pune, and Kolkata. These include popular outlets such as Nature’s Basket, Spencer’s, Foodhall, Le Marche, Modern Bazaar, HAIKO, and many more.
Their business model comprises at least six different channels of sales, including retail, online marketplaces, gifting, and exports. The brand also has a presence in more than 150 hotels, restaurants, and cafes, including names such as Burj Al Arab, Taj, Sofitel, Westin, Grand Hyatt, The Lalit, Indigo, etc.
In addition to this, TGL is also available at duty-free shops at Mumbai International Airport and airport lounges and QSRs across Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Goa, and Chennai.
Founded in 2017, The Tea Trove is a Kolkata-based startup started by Rishav Kanoi. The Tea Trove sources freshly packed teas (black, white, oolong, and green) directly from cultivators within a week of manufacturing and blends them into unique and exquisite flavours using dried herbs (peppermint, lemon-tulsi, chamomile, lemongrass), dried fruits (apple, orange peel, mango, pineapple), dried flowers (rose, lavender, jasmine), and dried spices (cardamom, pepper, cinnamon). It has over 60 teas and blends on offer.
Tearaja manufactures tea and sells more than 200 varieties, both online and offline, doubling its customer base year on year. Tearaja sources its tea directly from partnered tea estates, removing all middlemen, which has helped it reduce the time taken to source from various channels. The catalogue includes black tea, Darjeeling tea, oolong tea, white tea, green tea, herbal tea, ayurvedic tea, immunity tea, and iced tea. Prices start at Rs 299 for 100 gm and can go up to Rs 40,000 per kilo. Going ahead, Tearaja plans to further expand its catalogue, and tap new markets.
Based in Guwahati, Assam, Teaorb provides a platform to all tea manufacturers—especially small ones who don’t have the resources to market their produce—to make their teas visible to a wider audience and fetch remunerative prices. Teaorb also has a consulting wing to provide scientific guidance to producers on tea cultivation, manufacturing processes, marketing, and matters related to the Food Safety Standards Act 2006 and Tea Board of India’s directives on the Plant Protection Code.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai
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