For most of us, 2020 will be remembered as the onset of the Pandemic and the year that sparked a mass cultural reckoning. For Angeleno Bharat Vishnubhotla, it was all that – with a side of chai.
In late spring 2020, Bharat – who is Indian-American – was reflecting deeply about his identity and the role that representation and authenticity played out in his life. He visited a chain coffee shop with a friend, sipped a syrupy-sweet boxed chai and had an epiphany of sorts. “I didn’t want to complain about being misrepresented, I want[ed] to create the representation. So, let me try to make a good chai.”
For Bharat, good chai’s roots run deep. Chai is India’s national beverage, with dozens of regional variations; people gather to drink it four to five times a day. Growing up, his mother – who immigrated from India to Los Angeles in the 90s with his father – would mark the end of his and his sister Radha’s school days with a heady cup of warm masala spices. “Every time we would get home from school, chai would be on the table. A 3pm chai was a way to talk to our mom and dad as opposed to the traditional American dinner.”