Q&A: Caitlin West (Calmer Chai)


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Caitlin West – the Founder & Director of Calmer Chai – joins Hospopreneurs for a Q&A after their recent rebrand from Calmer Sutra Tea.

Calmer Chai, the pioneers of sticky chai in Melbourne, Australia, have forged the city’s cafe culture for the past 21 years. Their commitment to providing high-quality, consciously packaged and handmade chai blends has clearly resonated, with some loyal consumers drinking the product throughout its entire history.

In this Q&A article with Caitlin – we ask about the business’ rebrand and explore her motivations and inspirations behind the businesses focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences through chai.

Calmer Chai’s new ‘Melbourne Blend’ in three separate formats.

What’s your elevator pitch for Calmer Chai – what makes you different?

We are the pioneers of sticky chai in Melbourne, Australia. We create the highest quality range of consciously packaged and handmade chai blends for those looking for ‘calm
and comfort’ in a cup.

Talk us through your recent rebrand – is it just a facelift or is there a deeper
strategic change?

We were looking to streamline and unify our packaging and brand aesthetic. We were previously called Calmer Sutra Tea and decided to drop the “sutra” and really focus on exactly who we are: “Calmer” and “Chai”. We want to inspire our customers to create space for calm in their lives via the beautiful ritual that is brewing a pot of chai.

What fundamentally inspires you to do what you do and how do you ensure you
stay connected to that inspiration?

Our customers. We have the most wonderfully devoted and loyal audience and are reminded often by way of lovely messages that people have been drinking our chai for over 20 years. They say that once they’ve found Calmer, no other chai will meet their expectations. That keeps the fire burning right there.

We always stay connected to our customers, we listen to them, we respect their ideas and we genuinely care about what they have to say.

In the context of your work, what defines an exceptional customer experience,
and how do you implement systems to consistently deliver it to your consumers?
How does that method change when going via a venue or retailer to reach them

It all comes down to who we choose to have in our small but mighty team. We are very considerate in the way we employ our team members. We have a very humble approach to business and I think this funnels down to the way we treat and speak to our customers, both D2C & B2B2C. We offer compassion and support and utmost respect to each and every person who chooses Calmer for their home or business alike.

What are some significant changes that have taken place in the chai industry
during your career?

Many might not know that 21 years ago, when I started out, chai was an anomaly on cafe menus and the majority of consumers and businesses alike had not heard of chai. It was a very alternative drink.

Over the years this has changed and competitors are popping up exponentially. While the competition is vast, the market place has also grown and I’d be surprised to find a menu in the current day that doesn’t offer chai!

How do you ideate and explore new product ideas? How do you ensure that NPD
is commercially viable?

It always starts with what I enjoy personally and also within the team. It has to be a product I feel very passionate about and then I ask the questions – is it a unique product and if not how can we do it differently and better than other companies? Consumer demand and market saturation always need to be considered.

Who do you look to for inspiration? Are there specific brands, projects, people or
products that you draw inspiration from?

There are some wonderful brands out there that inspire me and I learn alot from their environmentally friendly initiatives and promises. I have business crushes on Loving Earth (organic vegan chocolate) and Merry People (cruelty free gumboots) because I resonate with the integrity and passion of the people behind these amazing brands.

Who provides you with constructive feedback and guidance when you make mistakes?

Our internal team are amazing sounding boards. They hold compassion, understanding and always offer sound advice during times of stress or pressure. We also listen to our customers and if we see a common theme occurring that is negative, this is a pretty good indication that change is necessary.

What needs more attention in the chai industry and how can that be tended to?

There are so many chai business these days that I think the industry is quite covered in terms of having something for everyone; sticky honey based blends, vegan blends, instant powdered blends or concentrates, ready to drink iced chai and more.

Each new brand on the market seems to have a different purpose or philosophy- but generally speaking, I think most chai creators are quite intentional about how they operate, it’s a wonderful industry to be a part of.

What’s on the horizon – for chai, for you and for your business?

For now we are focused on getting the word out there about our newest blend ‘Melbourne Blend’ because we believe that it is SO good! It’s certainly reignited my passion for my favourite beverage and I can’t wait to get it out there into peoples homes.

We also have a couple of exciting product collaborations that we are exploring, which is always fun and interesting.

To learn more about Calmer Chai, visit their website.