I'm writing from Bend, Oregon, where Andy, Chris and I just took a tour of My Chai's small, nascent production facility.
A few months ago, we visited Satellite Coffee in Tacoma. Pat (the owner of Satellite) is almost aggressively passionate about his coffee, syrups, and products. He told us about his syrup provider down in Bend, OR. We were interested and we bought a half-gallon of vanilla and split it with Chris and Jeanne. Fast forward to this weekend. We're in Bend, and Jeanne wants to find the syrup to buy more, but we forget the name. Plus we know it is a very small company and most likely isn't open to the public. Andy and Jeanne researched and called some local coffee shops to find My Chai's name and contact info. Andy gives them a call, and talks with Bapi himself (owner). Bapi is a pleasant fellow who asks, "how did you get this number? You're not a coffee shop? You just want to buy a couple bottles? Well, okay, I happen to be in the office today, but I'm only going to be here for another hour, so hurry over. We're not open to the public, so give me a call and I'll let you in the front door." We met Bapi - he showed us the original 5 gallon pot where he started crafting his chai and flavored syrups. Then he showed us the 20 gallon pot he used when production was in his apartment, then he showed us the industrial-size sink he wielded together to turn into a pot because 25 gallons was becoming too small. "I couldn't keep up. Once people discovered the syrup, they wanted more and more. I still can't keep up with demand. I sell to 400 stores and more every day, but look around - I have no inventory. Also, I refuse to take anyone's money, so all of this equipment and supplies are paid for in cash." He showed us the big 1000 (2000?) gallon drum that he's using now, and explains that he's moving into a bigger facility in Salem, OR where he can hopefully impress some bigger customers to start producing under their brand.
What a great little shop. My Chai is definitely going places, we're excited to have gotten a behind-the-scenes warehouse tour before it gets too popular. Bapi is a great guy. He's a former software engineer who, one day, decided he wanted to do something different. He's very excited about his product. He laughed when I told him where I work, but was very gracious!