By Gregory Daurer | Aug 01, 2016
Bhakti produces chai tea concentrate (often used by retail coffee or tea shops to prepare the spiced beverage for customers), as well as marketing its own artisan tea blends.
The sparkling teas (Mint Mate, Tart Cherry Rooibos, Mango Lime Matcha, and Lemon Ginger Black) debuted in April, and are available nationally in Whole Foods stores. (Some Bhakti products can also be found in Safeway, Target, and Kroger-owned stores.)
Eddy highlights the uniqueness of her company's growing catalog of bottled drinks: "We were the first iced ready-to-drink chai ever on the market. We're the first-ever natural sparkling tea on the market." The spring 2016 release of the naturally flavored carbonated beverages coincided with the rebranding of the company's name from Bhakti Chai to simply Bhakti, in light of its expanded product line.
Eddy says that between the chai products and sparkling teas, "We're brewing about 40,000 gallons of tea a month right now, so with our continued growth, we will hit 500,000 gallons for the year by the end of 2016." By comparison, she notes, "In 2015, we brewed 366,000 gallons of tea."
In addition to a base of black tea, Bhakti's chai products contain organic cardamom from Guatemala. And Eddy points out the uniqueness of another ingredient: "Fresh-pressed ginger is our signature spice that we use in our chai and our other tea products." 30,000 pounds are pressed into juice each month, and added to the chai and sparkling drink preparations. It's a zingy, aromatic ginger that lingers pleasingly on the tongue, mouth, back of the throat. Eddy says, "I'm really proud because it's organic ginger, and it's from Peru, and it's the highest quality. We have food scientists reach out to us and say, 'Can we buy your ginger? Because we've never come across anything as good and as potent as this kind of ginger.'"
Bhakti also makes it own almond and coconut milk, which are used in its Almond Blend Chai and Toasted Coconut Almond Blend chai drink. Eddy praises Bhakti's head brewer, Jared Mandeville, for his work on that development: "I think [our chai] tastes better than it tasted when we were buying almond milk and coconut milk."
Eddy wants people to know that not only can chai be enjoyed heated (like they do in India), but also iced like other teas here in America. Or it can be used, for instance, to bake chai pumpkin bread or cook chai coconut rice. Or even used as a mixer for a Bhakti Bourbon Slush, Bhakti White Russian, or Choco Chai Rumrunner cocktail.
Eddy no longer prepares the chai within her kitchen at home or within a small commercial cooking space (scalding her arms from steam in the process). Her company has a brand-new Longmont facility, thanks to a $3 million investment from the Colorado Impact Fund. Eddy says, "We were their first investment, which is really exciting. It's been so helpful. Without their support, we wouldn't have been able to . . . build our new brewery."
The Colorado Impact Fund chose Bhakti in part because of its B Corporation mission and its sustainable practices -- which utilize fair trade and organic ingredients, as well as for its GITA Giving program. The GITA acronymn stands for "Give, Inspire, Take Action," Eddy says, and the program acts as a "platform for social change." Through GITA Giving, the company funds projects educating girls in Peru, assisting womens' small business ventures in Nigeria and the Phillipines, and lending support to orphaned youth in Rwanda.
In conclusion, there's Bhakti's origin story to consider. For Eddy, an 8,000-mile journey from her home in Boulder led to a career which merges social activism and product innovation.
Driving in her car in the early 2000s, Eddy heard a radio report concerning the social and devotional movement in India of practicing "bhakti," which she describes as "a spiritual path through volunteerism." It resonated with Eddy, who'd studied social change as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. (She moved to Colorado from her native Michigan 16 years ago.) She says she's always pondered big questions: "How can we renovate society?" and "How can we change the world?"
"That's what brought me to India," says Eddy.
Her travels also gave her an expanded appreciation for chai tea -- the inspiration for her eventual business.
While in India, Eddy kept reams of notes and quotes, thinking she might earn a Ph.D one day by documenting the bhakti movement. Lately, she's been revisiting those writings.
Could a memoir be on the horizon? Eddy affirms with a smile, "That's my next project: putting that all down into words."
Challenges: "They've always been capital," says Eddy. "It's always pretty tight. We're always on this tightrope of managing cash flow."
Faith in her vision and sheer determination keep pushing Eddy onwards. Being the sole owner of a business, and a single mom with twins fast approching their teens, she acknowledges there have been some sleepless nights over the years. But Eddy says, "There's really no escape. What are you gonna do? Walk away?" She adds, "You've got to keep going forward, keep going forward, keep going forward."
Opportunities: Familiarizing people with Bhakti's line of goods. Explains Eddy: "Product innovation is a big opportunity. And letting people know really what this product is. I think a lot of people might not just try it. They're like, 'Oh, I don't know, I've never liked chai!' Or: 'Chai's just going to be too sweet!' That's another reason it's nice taking that word off the brand. I'm like, 'Oh, well if you don't like chai, you might like sparkling tea!' Or: 'Who doesn't like a hot cup of tea sometime, you know, that's fair trade and organic?' So, I think, just trying to find something that fits for everybody, and getting that message out."
Needs: "More customers trying the products. . . . We built this [Longmont brewing] facility, but we're not running through the capacity we need to make [back] that investment -- yet. We will hopefully in four years when the volumes go up. . . . We could be running that thing seven days a week."