What Starbucks did to coffee, Chai Point and Chaayos are doing to Masala Chai in India. There’s been massive growth in this premium market for masala chai cafes in the last few years with Chai Point and Chaayos expanding rapidly.
It reminds me of what happened with bottled water in the West, who thought people would buy, at big markups, something that flowed free from their taps at home? Buying bottled water never caught on in India, but buying premium masala chai is starting to.
Masala Chai is the staple drink in North India and can be found boiling on stoves in every home and on the sides of the roads in small chai stalls. The current Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, even helped his father as a 6-year-old boy sell chai to train passengers. The drink is that ingrained and unmistakably Indian.
So as the middle class grows in India, so has their desire to enjoy premium priced chai at a cafe, or grab a quick cup to-go.
Chaayos vs. Chai Point
Chaayos is #1 because of their clean well-designed and clean cafes, their extensive Chai customisation options, and their large food menu which also includes non-veg.
I used to prefer Chai Point because it was about 30% cheaper than Chaayos. But over the last year, they’ve increased the prices to Chaayos’ but added no value to match the increase.
The only benefit of Chai Point is that they, currently, have more stores in more cities than Chaayos, so I often find myself at Chai Point as they’re easier to come across.
At home, making a large 250ml cup of 100% milk masala chai costs a maximum of ₹20 (USD $0.30). From a street side chaiwala, it’s ₹30 ($0.45) for three of the small ₹10 cups they serve. At a chain, it’s minimum ₹80 ($1.20). You can make 1 litre at home, or buy 1 cup from a chai chain.
Update: Chai Point pricing across the country is different. For example, in Pune a large cost me ₹64.
When I don’t have a kitchen available to me to fill my thermos to the brim with my own homemade Masala Chai, this new breed of Chai stores is how I get my fix.
Both Chaayos and Chai Point price their chai roughly the same.
Chai Customisation & Taste
If I want a masala chai made with 100% milk, added ginger and cinnamon, and sugar-free, I can have it at Chaayos. The customisations are endless. The Chai is brewed freshly in front of you.
Chai Point doesn’t have extensive customisation, but they do offer a range of different flavoured teas. At Chaipoint the teas are premade and poured from a large dispenser. Not so fresh.
When it comes to the taste of their standard masala chais though, Chaayos and Chai Point are almost identical.
Chaayos boasts an extensive food menu and is prepared onsite in their kitchens. Their Mumbai style Vada Pau and Open Parathas, which are basically an Indian version of a pizza, are great for lunch. I also appreciate their inclusion of non-veg on the menu.
Chai Point has a limited menu of prepackaged vegetarian foods which I find a little unappetising, so I rarely eat there.
One annoyance of Chaayos & Chai Point
Chaayos is doing everything right, except for one thing, Chai Point has this problem too. Every time you enter and exit a staff member yells a greeting or farewell. It feels very forced. It’s like it’s some kind of KPI that they cannot miss at any cost.
I’m sure the guys at head office have some great sales increasing psychology based reasoning behind this strange greeting system, but it’s incredibly unnatural, fake, and wrecks the otherwise enjoyable experience.
The Winner: Chaayos
Ow, and whatever you do, do not drink the Masala Chai at Cafe Coffee Day. They serve you a teabag, water, and a small amount of milk! That’s not a Masala Chai.