It was love at first sip when we first encountered chai latte during a US holiday to join 2 million other people in Times Square to ring in the New Millennium.
We were hooked after the first taste of this frothy, sweet and spicy milk drink that looked like café latte, but was tea-based and tasted like liquid doughnuts.
The pack we brought home lasted only a few months and when we contacted the US manufacturers for more they told us there wouldn’t be any more... unless we wanted to sell it in Australia ourselves.
We had our own PR/marketing business at the time and didn't want to change direction, but the answer seemed simple... we just had to talk to a few foodie contacts and they'd surely jump at a ground floor opportunity to launch Australia's own chai phenomenon.
How hard could it be?
We soon found out.
Selling an unheard-of product with a weird name ("chai what!?") into an industry we didn't know – and that didn’t want to know us – was crazy hard and very frustrating.
We chipped away for about 3 years before we started to find some traction - right about the time our US supplier cashed out leaving us with no chai to sell and lots of angry customers!
BONDI CHAI IS BORN…
It took us about 30 seconds to decide to create our own brand, but it took another 12 months of hard slog to get that new product/brand launched - most of that time being spent on developing our recipes.
With limited cash, no appetite for serious debt and no expertise in food manufacturing/storage or distribution, it made sense to outsource as many parts of the business as possible.
And being able to manage the whole business via telephone and the internet meant we could function anywhere there was mobile phone signal and internet access. So, armed with our "ideal lifestyle" list, we set off to road-test every city, town and hamlet between Newcastle and Noosa on Australia's east coast. We chose Port Stephens in NSW and in 2007 said goodbye to our home town of Launceston in Tasmania.
IT'S GO TIME!
We set Bondi Chai's official birthday as May 5, 2005 (05/05/05), launching with 2 varieties: Vanilla Honey and Club Cinnamon and had to commit to one tonne of each for our first production batch. With our bridges in flames behind us, we set off with enthusiasm, hardly pausing to notice that after one month we'd sold just 17kg.
Only 1883kg to go!
AND THE WINNER IS…
Bondi Chai continues to grow strongly today and has earned a reputation as the gold standard for chai latte in Australia, with more awards for taste and quality than any other product in the category.
THE STUFF OF DREAMS…
Export was always a big part of our growth plans – it’s one of the key reasons we chose the name Bondi Chai – and we’re now well down that track. Now you can enjoy a Bondi Chai in places as far apart as Singapore and Sydney, Amsterdam and Albury, Launceston and London and Taipei and Tamworth.
One of our greatest pleasures is to travel around the world and hear Bondi Chai being ordered in different languages or hearing super-stars like Nicole Kidman and Alice Cooper singing the praises of Bondi Chai!
WE OWE IT ALL TO YOU…
After achieving our aims in supermarkets, we moved into e-commerce and our international expansion continues with efforts currently concentrated on Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
We recently launched a third variety – Ginger n Spice – to meet the demand for a 'spicier' blend that could also meet the emerging demand for dairy-free and vegan products.
We are excited by what’s in store for Bondi Chai, and we’ve never lost sight of the fact that the product is the real hero in this story.
We’re grateful every day for all the people who help us to make, pack and distribute Bondi Chai to every corner of our country and many parts of the world.
But we are most grateful for the really important people in our world… the ever-growing band of raving fans of Bondi Chai who have adopted our products as their favourite drink and help to keep Bondi Chai on a continuous growth curve.
Melissa Edyvean & Martin Buggy
The Bondi Chai story attracts a lot of media attention, including this feature on Foxtel's Industry Leaders series...