Bondi Chai — Australia’s own chai latte — has become the first chai latte to earn Australian food industry acclaim with two gold medals at the recent Wrest Point Royal Hobart Fine Food Awards.
Co-owner of Bondi Chai, Martin Buggy, believes the award is significant not only for his own brand, but also for chai latte as a beverage and its position in the Australian beverage industry.
“Our involvement with the ‘chai phenomenon’ began in the US about 8 years ago when chai latte was just hitting its straps there, but was virtually unknown in this country,” Buggy said.
“The US experience showed that for a number of reasons the beverage takes several years to gain traction in a new market as consumers and the industry embrace its benefits.
“So we knew the education process was going to take some years when we launched Bondi Chai here in 2005. Achieving Gold Medals in Hobart’s Fine Food Awards three years later is a strong indication that chai latte is now consolidating its own ‘mini-category’ position in this country.”
Buggy said that when he and his partner first discovered chai latte they were instantly smitten and became convinced that this new beverage would be a hit at home.
“It tasted fantastic and the idea of infusing tea and a variety of spices into steamed milk to make a latte was delightfully ‘off-the-wall’ while the romance surrounding its Indian history and the multitude of recipes added intrigue and a sense of discovery to the whole ‘chai latte phenomenon’.
“But its real power lay in the fact that it was probably the first genuinely new beverage to hit Australia in decades and it offered a wonderful alternative for those people who love the café atmosphere, but don’t really like coffee and find tea a bit flat in the fun environment of a cafe,” he said.
Buggy said their views on chai latte’s big future in Australia were strengthened in 2006 when the AustralAsian Specialty Coffee Association commissioned a report which concluded that almost 90% of Australians didn’t necessarily have a love affair with coffee itself, but saw it instead as ‘a flavouring in a hot, sweet, milk beverage’.
“We saw chai latte as precisely that — a wonderfully flavoured hot, sweet milk — and our belief in the product has since been vindicated by incredible consumer demand — and now this award from the food industry.”
“We founded our ‘all Australian’ product on three key planks: quality ingredients, great taste and value for money,” he said.
“After three years in the market, we estimate that some 3000 cafes around Australia are now selling our product and we also sell into Singapore, Bali, Kuwait and the UK.