What a pleasure it is to know Aditi. She makes the most exceptional chai we've ever tasted. Truly. And we've had a lot of chai. Her care and intention lives in this chai. Coming from a generations old recipe passed down through her family, coupled with her travels and love for good and honest food, this chai is simply beautiful.
What is your story and what has brought you into the world of food? And chai specifically!
I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India. Growing up I had a privilege of living in a joint family with my grandfather, uncles, aunts and parents. Good food and good company always found their way in our home. My mother and two aunts would go to the local Santa Cruz market daily, hand select produce, and prepare fresh meals daily. They all are exceptional cooks. Unknowingly, I had cultivated a palate for incredibly tasty, authentic, fresh "farm to table" food!”
Then I started world travel...I moved to the US - there is no food like back home, so the only option was to make it myself. My mother-in-law and grandmother in law are both exceptional chefs, and I quickly started collecting their recipes and techniques. (There is a photo on my website with all the women in my family who were instrumental in making me what I am today!) I integrated the best from several family recipes and made each dish my own. I moved to Basel, Switzerland for a few years. There at Markt Platz, I learned the value again of daily produce selection and of meeting and speaking with the vendors and trusting their recommendations. I met local bakers from the coffee shops around Basel and from travels in Europe. All of this opened up a new world to me and sparked further culinary interest.
Fast forward to Washington - the fresh bounty of local produce, Pike Place market, the opportunity to stay and visit farms in Yakima, further fueled my itch to develop and cook creatively for family and friends, one thing led to another and I started doing pop-ups (similar to supper clubs in London) in Seattle - the first one was in 2015 at Pike Place market! For one such pop-up I was making Indian street food and had to find a particular type of bread for one dish. I went to all the bakeries in Seattle and didn’t find what I was looking for, the last stop was Columbia City Bakery and to my good fortune, Evan Anders the owner and head baker knew exactly what I was looking for and had traveled to India not long ago! So he made exactly the kind of bread I was looking for and while chatting with him he asked me to make chai for his cafe and here I am!
What does kinship in the context of food mean to you? How has food served as a connector for you?
In India, chai is the most popular drink and growing up there it was an integral part of my life every day -- whether it was the morning newspaper with that hot cup of chai, extending gracious hospitality to the guests at home, meeting friends over a cup of chai, long train journeys, highway breaks or monsoon getaways. But the most important part for me was the concept of hospitality in our house. In our household we were always ready for someone coming unannounced. The unexpected guest is called the atithi, literally meaning “without a set time.” And so the saying in India is “Atithi Devo Bhava”, meaning that guests (even if they come unannounced) are God. Treat a guest as if he were god himself. Tradition teaches that, no matter how poor or rich one is, one should always offer three items to guests: sweet words, a sitting place, and refreshments (at least a glass of Chai!). So you see, the concept of hospitality runs very very deep in our culture and Aditi Chai was my way of articulating hospitality to our friends and family here in the US.
What is your favorite fruit and or vegetable? And/or ideal meal?
There are way too many…😊 But keeping in the context of Chai, I absolutely enjoy having a cup of piping hot chai with these flat breads (thepla) that my mom makes with fresh fenugreek leaves! They are made with whole wheat and pearl millet flours - the perfect balance of spicy, sweet and a touch of a bitter taste due to the fenugreek leaves! My favorite memory growing up was taking these theplas on road trips to be had with hot chai from roadside tea stalls!