One of my favorite things about writing this blog are the lovely products I get to taste, experiment with, and share about—Dona Chai is no exception. This beautiful glass bottle of chai tea concentrate found its way into my kitchen from Brooklyn, New York. Suffice to say, I am as enamored with it's rich autumn inspired flavors as much as I am it's pretty packaging.
Dona Chai began as a series of experiments in the east coast kitchen of Amy Rothstein back in 2013. After countless hours spent teaching herself to make chai, Amy partnered up with her brother Peter—who had just graduated with a business degree—to bring Dona Chai to market. The fruits of this family business now finds itself in dozens of cafes across New York City, including Everyman Espresso. And, it's flavors are as far reaching as the shelves of Alfred Tea Room in Los Angeles.
Being that today is National Pumpkin Spice Day (It's a thing...) and the season is right, I am happy to share a brief interview with Dona Chai's founder Amy Rothstein, along with an incredibly easy recipe for a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, using Dona Chai, of course. I hope you enjoy!
tLBCC: What inspired you to get in the business of making chai?
Amy Rothstein: No one was doing it. At the time, I was in grad school at NYU for Food Studies. I knew I wanted to be in food, I just didn’t know in what capacity. I was going to a lot of coffee shops, and noticed that every shop had chai, but there wasn’t an artisanal, local, or better quality option. So I started planning my company.
tLBCC: You got your start in an incubator in Long Island City. Can you share a little bit about your experience at the Organic Food Incubator? Would you recommend incubators to other small business owners?
Amy Rothstein: Incubator spaces are the best way for food companies to get their start. Kitchen equipment is extremely expensive. An industrial kettle alone could cost up to $30,000. The Organic Food Incubator provided us with an affordable way to get our start. We were able to rent kitchen space by the day and have access to a kettle, a bottling machine, labeler, storage, and even peer help. After our start an the incubator, we were able to build out our own space in Brooklyn.
tLBCC: You don't have to dig too far on Instagram to see that Dona Chai has inspired some incredibly delicious looking recipes from talented food bloggers. Did you expect your chai concentrate would spark this much creativity? What are a few of your favorite Dona Chai inspired recipes/collaborations?
Amy Rothstein: I didn’t expect it! But working with bloggers has been such a great part of my job. A future project is to share some of these collaborations on my site, featuring both Dona Chai and the recipe creator. Lately, Dona Chai breakfast bowls have been popular. And they make for the prettiest picture. And these are perfect: Maple Chai Buttermilk Rolls
tLBCC: Where did the name Dona Chai come from?
Amy Rothstein: It’s not a great story! When my mom was growing up she had a doll that she named Donna. It was a vintage doll that my sister and I would play with when we visited my grandmother’s house. I guess I liked how Dona Chai sounded and I was happy to find a name with some personal connection.
Simple Pumpkin SPICE Latte
- 1 cup milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
- 3 Tbsp pumpkin puree
- 2 Tbsp Dona Chai concentrate
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 shot of espresso
- Place all ingredients, except espresso, in a blender and blend on high until smooth and fully incorporated.
- Pull a shot of espresso.
- Steam pumpkin milk.
- Pour frothed milk over espresso, sprinkle with cinnamon.
tLBCC: From restaurants, to coffee shops, to home pantries, more and more people are seeking out and investing in quality ingredients and artisanal products. What should we know about your brewing process, and the spices you are using to make Dona Chai?
Amy Rothstein: Our chai stands out for three reasons: One, we're a local product. Our chai is made start to finish by us in our Brooklyn kitchen. Two, our ingredients: we use fresh ginger and far less sugar than other chais. We source untreated whole spices, that is, they’ve never been introduced to chemicals. And three, our production process makes for a natural concentrate. What this means is that we use a large volume of spices (ground fresh per batch), and have an extended steeping time, so that our chai is concentrated naturally rather than by reduction or made into a powder.
Our process: grind spices, chop fresh ginger, steep, strain, bottle. Pretty simple. But most good food items are.
tLBCC: Aside from Dona Chai concentrate, what other products do you offer?
Amy Rothstein: We recently launched a ready to drink Chai Latte with Almond Milk. This month, we’re adding a Dirty Chai Latte with almond milk and cold brew coffee to this line.