Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu famously said: “Tea is the elixir of life.”
Indian chai lovers seem to live by this adage. No wonder India, the second largest producer of tea in the world, is also the world’s largest consumer of the beverage.
According to a report by Eon Market Research (EMR), India consumed around 1.10 million tons of tea in 2019. The tea market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.2 percent and 1.40 million tons of tea is expected to be consumed by 2025.
Reason enough for numerous startups to try and tap the opportunity.
These include Guwahati-based Aromica Tea, which is blending good health and wellness in their range of teas. Founded in 2018 by husband and wife duo, Ranjit and Dolly Sharma Baruah, the startup offers 30 tea blends that incorporate health benefits of natural herbs and ingredients.
Aromica Tea was first launched with five tea blends during the India International Tea & Coffee Expo held at Kolkata in 2018. The tea startup now offers about 30 tea blends, each with its own taste, character, and health benefits. Popular varieties include, chamomile tea, tulsi green tea, blue tea, the patent-pending bhut jolokia tea, saffron tea, yellow tea, oolong tea, moringa tulsi green tea, and turmeric tea.
Ranjit has 20 years of experience in tea plantation, tea tasting, and tea manufacturing while Dolly brings 14 years of experience in the tea industry.
“Aromica Tea believes in promoting wellness through tea. We have used our extensive experience, backed by research, to create unique and popular blends of tea. We use natural ingredients that have been traditionally used in every household over ages,” Ranjit, Co-founder and Director, tells YourStory.
Harnessing the health benefits of tea
The co-founder says the startup is involved in developing products that cater to several needs, including wellness, weight loss, skin care, and boosting immunity. The target customer is aged between 20-65 years, with a large percentage of them women.
“Aromica Tea was started in a two-room office in the backyard of our residence in Guwahati with an initial investment of around Rs l0 Lakh,” Ranjit says.
The director says Aromica sources tea leaves from small-sized tea plantation owners in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh as such plantations produce tea in small batches. It also allows them to help farmers access a platform to sell their produce. The tea leaves are then blended with natural ingredients in-house to increase their nutritional value and taste to develop a new tea product.
“Polyphenols in tea possess antioxidant, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties; they modulate detoxification enzymes and stimulate immune functions. We blend with herbs and natural ingredients such as chamomile, butterfly pea flower, tulsi, ginger, rose, and peppermint to increase the health benefits,” he adds.
Speaking about starting up in Guwahati, Ranjit explains that the startup benefits as Assam is one of the major tea-producing states in the country and the city’s logistics infrastructure helps them source different teas from across the state.
Business and more
Aromica’s products can be purchased online through its website and third party ecommerce platforms, including Flipkart, Merricart, and MyGALF. He adds that users can also place orders through WhatsApp. While deliveries are free within Guwahati, the products are generally shipped to other cities through courier services.
The tea products are available in 50gm or 100 gm packs and cost between Rs 250 and Rs 600.
“We have 60 percent repeat customers and more than 1,100 customers. Apart from online sales, we are also available at about 12 outlets in Guwahati. We run a specialty tea café in the city, JUST TEA, where we serve more than 60 types of tea and provide sampling of different teas to customers to choose from before buying,” Ranjit says.
The bootstrapped startup has been selected by IIM Calcutta Innovation Park, Kolkata, and Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), Guwahati, for incubation.
The tea market has several players innovating and developing new products. Aromica Tea faces competition from other tea startups such as Organic India, Karma Kettle, Tea Box, Tea Shelf, and Vahdam Teas among others.
The director believes that Aromica products have an edge over others because of its innovative blends such as bhut jolokia tea (tea blended with ghost pepper, a type of hybrid chili pepper) and Rudraksha Tea.
Speaking about future plans, Ranjit says the tea startup aims to expand its footprint to Australia before Christmas this year and is also planning to launch in the UK and North America. Making products available in 5,000 outlets across India and creating 75 tea blends is also on the anvil.
Aromica is also looking for grants and funding to scale up operations.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai