Meet the chai-walli from Australia

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When Uppma Virdi walked into a Melbourne office in November last year with a teacup in her hand, there was not a hit that she would be famous as a renowned community and business leader. Uppma has won the title of “Business Woman of the Year” in the 2016 Indian Australian Business and Community Awards (IABCA). She turned her passion for Indian tea into a successful business in Australia.
While doing her day job at a law firm, Uppma started her tea business ‘Chai Walli’ which means a female tea seller, a little over 3 years ago. But she inherited her passion for tea from her grandfather, a doctor specializing in herbs and spices. “My grandfather is an Ayurvedic doctor and he used to make this Ayurvedic tea at his medical dispensary. He taught me the art of Ayurvedic tea.” She formulated an original chai brew back home in Boulder, Colorado, on failing to find an authentic version at her local cafes. The first few packets went to her friends and family. She began her online store and started wholesaling to a few local stores back in 2016. She is very professional and maintains it like how a business should run.
“Wherever I go I make tea… My parents’ number one request is ‘Uppma, make some tea.’ When my brother got married, I think I would have made a thousand cups of tea for all the guests. Even when I went overseas to Austria on a scholarship, I used to make tea for everyone. It was a way of bringing people together,” she says.” She wants to share it with the people in Australia. “I started going to markets to share our family tea there. We always sold out and that’s when I realized, I had something special in my blends that I wanted to share with the wider Australian community,” she says.
Uppma prepared the tea blends that she learned from her grandfather. She aims to educate Australian society about Indian Culture through tea. She even runs a workshop name “The art of Chai’ to teach people how to brew the perfect chai. Though, her morning job is still as a lawyer. But she gets really happy when anyone calls her “Chai Walli”
“I know that there are still a lot of cross-cultural issues about young women in business. When I go to India at times the suppliers and businesses don’t take me seriously, being a young Indian-Australian woman. There’s still a long way to go,” she says.

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