We chatted with Melissa Edyvean, Owner of Bondi Chai:
Tell us about Bondi Chai?
I could say it is a premium powdered chai latte premix but to me Bondi Chai is the “solution” to a goal that Martin and I set to escape a life of working hours for dollars and instead spend time together travelling the world.
What inspired you to get in the business of making chai?
In 2000, we were nearly frozen to death on holidays in Washington. We ended up looking for warmth in a café, but couldn’t smell any coffee. We literally stumbled onto ‘chai latte’. At the time the ‘chai latte phenomenon’ was starting to gain traction in the US, but was virtually unheard of in Australia.
We bought some to take home and then ran out. So, we contacted the company that made it to see if we could buy it in Australia – and they said “only if you want to sell it over there!”
We collaborated for a few years with the US brand and eventually became convinced that someone was going to do very well with chai latte in Australia. In 2004, Bondi Chai was born.
Within a decade Bondi Chai had become Australia’s most awarded chai latte and today someone, somewhere in the world orders a Bondi Chai Latte every 2 seconds.
How can you tell you are drinking a good chai?
When I say “chai” I am talking about “chai latte” – a frothy milk drink flavoured with tea and spices – not a brewed chai tea.
You’ll love the taste, the creaminess, the aroma, and certainly, when you finish it you’ll be looking forward to your next chance to enjoy a chai latte.
My advice would be to find one you love (read the ingredients to make sure you should love it and not run a mile) and then memorise the brand and then make sure the café owner offers it before placing your order.
Which chai is your bestselling product?
The variety we call Club Cinnamon is our best seller. Although we’ve just released our Ginger n Spice (which is my new favourite). It is dairy-free and vegan-friendly.
Which countries are you exporting Bondi Chai to?
We’re currently exporting to a number of European countries. We also stocked in Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and the Reunion Islands. We’ve also exported to the Middle East and even India itself (which is a bit like selling ice to the Inuit!). We’re currently working with distributors in China, Malaysia and Thailand.
What are some of your favourite ways to drink chai?
I am loving our new Ginger n Spice flavour, which has little more kick to it. We are working with some partners to develop a cold ready to drink chai latte.
Can you describe a typical day?
We are a small team so it is still a case of everyone wearing many hats in our office and getting done what needs doing! Martin covers sales and marketing, I look after finance and logistics. He dreams in big pictures and I build the systems and cash flow to work towards them. It is a blessing that we both have totally different skills and naturally picked up different tasks that when all put together have resulted in a successful business.
What are three foods you can’t live without?
Crusty bread and dairy foods (any sort of cheese, or cream you can stand a spoon up in and milk for my chai latte – of course)
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the fact that we sell a product that I LOVE and can be passionate about, and because chai latte is a niche product then the people who drink it tend to be very loyal and passionate about it too!
And because we built Bondi Chai with the goal of exporting it to other countries – we get the chance to travel the world together talking to people about a product we created.
Tell us about your awards?
Bondi Chai is the most awarded product in its category with awards that include:
- Two gold medals in both the 2009 and 2010 Wrest Point Royal Hobart Fine Foods Awards and a gold and silver medal in the 2011 awards;
- Named among Australia’s top four healthiest milk drinks by the Healthy Food Guide magazine in 2013.
Our business has been named:
- NSW Micro Business of The Year and a national finalist in the 2014 Telstra Business Awards.
- SE Asia Food and Beverage Company of The Year 2015 in the International Stevie Awards.
We have also been recognised in the Australian Small Business Champions Awards, the My Business Awards and the Anthill Cool Company Awards.
Who or what inspires you?
We have a local women in business group that I have had the privilege to do some mentoring with and I am always inspired to listen to the dreams, plans, challenges, wins and learnings of young women who are really going after their goals and making an impact in their community.
Do you have any predictions for the food industry?
It is great to see innovation in the food and beverage space but like every other industry there seems to be a constant search for something new, just for the sake of it – it’s wonderful to see people returning to simple, authentic foods made with love and care using great ingredients.
Do you have any plans for the future?
It has been wonderful to launch a new flavour this year – our first since we started in 2004, but our focus now is finding partners to work with to develop a “chai offering” across a range of products.
About Bondi Chai
Martin Buggy and Melissa Edyvean’s first experience with chai latte occurred at the turn of the millennium, when they were in the USA to watch the ball drop in Times Square, and brought a pack of chai latte powder home with them. 19 years later and Bondi Chai is one of the most popular and highly awarded chai latte powders on the market. Made with the finest, almost entirely natural ingredients, it’s sold all around the world.