In celebration of Perfect South’s first collaborative tea, with The Chai Room, we interviewed founder, Fatema Khanbhai, to learn about her history with chai and the inspiration and flavours behind this delicious and unique blend called Chai Spiced Sencha.
Why is chai special to you? Where did your love of chai come from?
I have been making chai since I was knee high, hobbling on the kitchen stool and rummaging for spices, while my mum wasn’t looking. I remember trying to sneak a vanilla bean, saffron and cardamom. They were precious commodities in my mum’s spice cupboard and my masala chai wouldn’t be complete without them!
Today, chai is my art. It has a knack of making me feel both relaxed and creative at the same time. Perhaps because it has so many memories of love, comfort and warmth attached to it, from when I was growing up, and from when I began to share the joy of chai with those around me.
Tell us about The Chai Room – when and why did you start making and selling chai tea?
Chai has followed me around throughout my life and career, gently supporting me as I worked long hours in the fashion industry, and while travelling and living in different parts of the world. It would always pick me up when I was down.
The change of pace in my life happened when my two beautiful children were born. I reintroduced myself to the familiar ritual that had been pushed aside, as my needs were pulled towards nurturing them. However, I felt keenly towards imparting the ritual of chai and my knowledge of spices and their benefits to my kindlings. I immersed myself and my children into making our own spices, bought fresh from the markets. We roasted, crushed, blended, and packaged our tea by hand, from our dining table.
In the early years, we would set up at the markets and serve eager customers hot cups of masala chai. My joy for chai and what it brought to the community was reignited during this process. Almost eight years later, we are stocked in stores and cafes nationwide.
We pride ourselves in using carefully selected premium and organic spices. All our ingredients are natural and with no added flavours or preservatives. Our native blends are sourced sustainably and locally and we support local growers where we can.
How did you approach blending Perfect South’s Chai Spice Sencha? What were you hoping to achieve with this blend?
When Renee approached me to collaborate it was a dream come true, as I have long admired Perfect South and the contribution it has made to the specialty tea industry in Australia. To be able to create a blend that suited Perfect South, it was important to understand the brand, its values and what type of flavour profile was desired.
I have the utmost respect for tea and its origin, and green tea has a very special tradition attached to it, which I didn’t want to overpower. I also didn’t want to create a traditional or expected chai. The aim was to re-imagine and create a new interpretation of chai that felt appropriate for Perfect South’s brand and their ethos. Australian Sencha, which was used as the base tea, is such a delightful refreshing brew, so I wanted to make sure that the spices would be in balance with the tea.
I asked myself when creating this blend: “Where would I want to be taken when drinking this tea?” Personally, I would love to be taken on a journey in between cultures that are steeped in rich tradition, which has transcended time and transformed itself to reflect a new Australiana.
Describe the taste of the tea and what the ingredients bring to the blend?
We trialled a few green teas, however we both fell for the Sencha. Somehow, Australian soil has brought a sweetness to this Sencha that I felt was a perfect base for the blend. There is a gentle mouth feel with not too much astringency. Soft notes of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger glide through the palette initially and are rounded off with a mellow finish from the Sencha.
About The Chai Room
The Chai Room create premium traditional masala chai and chai blends for home and hospitality, since 2013. They deliver Australia-wide and specialise in tea and spice mixes that taste delicious, promote health, and are convenient to prepare at home. As a business steeped in family tradition, they’ve lived a life of chai and their expertise ensures every blend enhances wellbeing, to be enjoyed with family and friends. Their chai is available online and in small specialty grocers.