“I wanted to do something cheeky and spicy” Chai Walli Uppma Virdi – Business Woman of the Year- Australia
Names are important to Virdi, 26, who was recently declared “business woman of the year” at the India Australia Business & Community Awards for her tea venture, Chai Walli. Virdi chose the brand’s name as a tribute to the scores of Indian women who can make the perfect cup of tea in their sleep.
“You hear the term ‘’chai walla’ [used for a male tea-seller] very commonly,” breaking the stereotype said Virdi. “I wanted to acknowledge the female tea makers who are constantly brewing tea at home or even in shops. Deep down, every India woman is a chai walli.”
“I’m a great lawyer, but I’m also a great chai walli,” said Uppma Virdi, who is certain that her parents did not intend to name her after one of India’s most popular tea-time snacks – uppma, she said, is a word from the Sikh holy book, that actually means “praise of the supreme being”.
Offering three blends of tea with different combinations of spices, Virdi’s Chai Walli brand has made a space for itself in a land of coffee drinkers by conducting tea workshops, called Art of Chai. At these sessions, Virdi teaches Australians how to correctly brew a cup of tea, while delivering a message Indians have long wanted the West to understand – that the term “chai tea” means nothing.
Tea, according to Virdi, is more than a hot beverage, it is the very fabric of relationships in most parts of India.
“Tea garners a sense of union and community among people,” said Virdi. “No matter what the time or occasion is, there is tea being made and served. We gossip over tea, we offer it as way of comfort, tea becomes our companion in happiness and sadness.”
Virdi’s tryst with tea began at an early age under the tutelage of her grandfather Pritam Singh Virdi, a homeopathic doctor dealing in Ayurvedic treatments.
“When I was young and unwell, or had a stomach ache, Dadaji would brew his medicinal tea with different herbs and spices and I would drink it without appreciating it,” said Virdi. “It was medicine to me then.”