It’s a century-long tradition that us Sri Lankans welcome guests with an “Ayubowan” and a warm cup of tea. It is in our culture; a ritual we have always valued. It is an aspect of our heritage that the recently launched brand of tea, Soo Chai, also holds dear to their heart.
Brunch had a lovely chat with Soo Chai Co-Founders Shan Abeywardena and Shanika Sumanadeera to understand their brand values and why tea was the inspiration behind their business.
What makes their success with Soo Chai all the more impressive is that neither of them have a background in the tea industry. Shan has experience in handling imports and exports in the food and beverage (F&B) sector in several countries and Shanika’s experience in the corporate sector has proved useful in sales and marketing
The two strongly believe that tea is one of the healthiest drinks you can find. With Soo Chai, they wanted to create a healthy habit by not deviating from one’s daily routine. Shan told us that during the time he lived overseas for a few years, it made him appreciate the true value of Sri Lankan products. “We have the best tea in the world and the best spices in the world,” he stated, informing us that he has conversed with Ayurvedic doctors and researched the best combination of tea and spice blends that can maximise the benefits of each ingredient.
“After two years of research trying out many combinations of spices, Soo Chai was born. The combination perfected the potency of each ingredient to bring out its maximum potential,” Shan stated.
Carefully curated spices
On the same topic, he told us that Soo Chai was born to enhance your ordinary tea experience. “The blend is handcrafted in Sri Lanka with premium Ceylon black tea and nine special spice blends to transform your tea, intensifying the taste and burst of flavours.” Shanika piped in, explaining that the blends are made with all-natural ingredients, without artificial sweeteners, preservatives, or additives.
Shanika also commented that Sri Lankan spices have a distinctive taste and that they are the first Sri Lankan brand to introduce the masala tea spice blend to the market. “We use premium Ceylon tea strains mixed with a spice blend of ginger, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, turmeric, cumin, and peppercorns,” she told us, revealing that the recipe has been engineered to provide a fragrant, convenient, easy-to-use, handy-packed beverage containing maximum fusion, merging therapeutic spices with a host of curative properties in a delicious and flavourful blend. Most of their ingredients are locally sourced directly from our farmers, but special ingredients like saffron have to be imported.
We asked the pair why they decided to focus specifically on masala chai, rather than the usual tea. Shan explained that he sees it as a very positive thing that the concept of spice chai is gaining popularity here in Sri Lanka, adding: “Although tea is a popular beverage in Sri Lanka, the concept of chai is just gaining popularity here.”
Shanika added that since many of the gulf countries and our neighbouring countries have been enjoying the benefits of this popular beverage for centuries, it seemed like the natural step was to offer a spice tea blend in Sri Lanka. They told us that Soo Chai has been widely adopted in the local market now. They also observed that Soo Chai has been a superior product to traditional spice chai. “We have found the concept was easier to introduce to these countries and only now we are seeing a wider acceptance of the product here in Sri Lanka.”
We asked the two what health benefits one can reap from a cup of spiced chai rather than the traditional tea. Shan informed us that recent research found that tea improves the ability to manage stress and anxiety, and earlier studies have shown it triggers various parts of the brain linked with relaxation and mental focus to light up, aiding in dealing with distractions. He explained that Soo Chai has carefully chosen each spice due to its well-known health benefits. “Some of them are Ceylon tea which boosts heart health and is full of antioxidants; cardamom which lowers blood pressure and improves breathing and oxygen use; cinnamon which has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties and relieves digestive discomfort; clove which lowers blood sugar and improves liver health; and many spices which contain cancer-fighting compounds,” he explained.
As their motto goes, it is truly “A Sip of Luxury” – not only does it have a rich, unique flavour; it also has a whole list of health benefits. Shanika added: “We don’t think anyone else has put this much effort into carefully researching and calculating the right amount of each ingredient to select the best possible combination of tea and spices.”
They also recently launched in Dubai and Oman. Soo Chai had the opportunity to display their product at the recently held Dubai Expo 2020 as well.
Soo Chai continues to expand and hopes to place Sri Lanka on the map once again.