Jaipur Avenue: Delectable Chai From Jillu Zaveri

Stylish Jaipur Chai packages. Photo courtesy of Sean Hoyt.

A former Oscar De La Renta designer froths up a delicious new business venture.

Seattleite entrepreneur Jillu Zaveri recently invited me into her home — her beautifully decorated home, I might add — for a cup of chai tea and a chat about her fashion career, as well as her most recent endeavor, Jaipur Avenue.

Photo: Sean Hoyt

Zaveri had a love for color and textures at an early age. She grew up in Mumbai, India, where she spent her summer vacations accompanying her dad on business to printing houses. She was perfectly content sitting for hours and admiring all of the colors she saw in these establishments. “Color and textures had become such an essential part of my life,” she said.

It was this love that eventually led her to a career in the New York fashion industry, where she designed high-end home accessories for Ankasa and fabrics for Oscar de la Renta. Eventually, she moved to Seattle and began working for Nordstrom. In early 2008, she decided to take a break from the long hours spent as a fabric specialist.

Shortly after leaving Nordstrom, Zaveri went on an African safari with her husband and his high school friends. Although she didn’t know it at the time, that trip would be pivotal in what turned out to be her next career adventure.

As she relaxed after a long day of touring the bush, she watched one of the women in her group prepare several cups of chai by just adding hot water. As a native of India, Zaveri knew how authentic chai should taste, and understood well the process of making it from scratch. She took one sip of the fragrant beverage and was hooked.

“My next question to her was, ‘do you want to sell this in America?'” Zaveri recalled. “I thought of all my American friends who love chai but it’s hard for them to make it.”

Zaveri returned to the US with a few samples and gave them to friends to taste. When they agreed that it tasted like authentic chai, she knew she was onto something. She began to work on packaging and collaborated with the manufacturer in India to tweak the recipe, making it healthier by lowering the sugar content.

In late 2010, Jaipur Avenue chai was released for sale in the US market. Although it took two and half years to make the product a reality, settling on a name was the easy part.

“Growing up in India,” she exlained, “I always had this fascination for Jaipur because it has a colorful history, textiles and palaces.”  She says the Avenue was added to give the brand a contemporary feel.

Jaipur Avenue chai is currently available in five flavors: Vanilla, Ginger, Cardamom, Original Masala and Saffron. A variety pack that includes the three latter flavors is also available. Within the next couple of years, Zaveri is hoping to launch two more flavors that are currently in the works. As for myself, I’m hooked on the Saffron.

To taste Jaipur Avenue chai for yourself, visit Jaipur Avenue online. You can also find the product at the following Seattle area stores:  DeLaurenti, Paris Grocery, Amita – The Art of Gifts, Savour, The British Pantry, Ken’s Market (Greenwood), MoMo Japantown and Lama G’s Café.