“I have a good inkling of what this could turn into now, but given how naïve I was back then I can only imagine that my best guess of what I will turn into now is probably still short of the mark. That leaves me kind of breathless, because the possibilities for all of us at the Maya Tea Company are pretty substantial.”
~ Manish Shah, on Steeping Around, show 79
The Maya Tea Company, like many businesses, has humble origins. In the beginning there was only one product, a family recipe for chai tea, blended and packaged into teabags. Ambitions were small, expectations were narrow, and even hopes fell short of what the tea company, after a decade, has become.
Maya Tea Company really begins with an eleven year-old Manish, hovering over a kettle in the kitchen, carefully preparing his mother’s chai recipe. His parents owned and operated a small motel in Tucson, Arizona, and during working hours while they managed the business young Manish busied himself in the kitchen, prepared chai for his parents to drink. It was his contribution, his first chore, and the first thing he ever learned to cook.
Fast forward to adulthood. Manish, now a college graduate, was itching to find his own niche in the marketplace. He began a small marketing firm and was enjoying some small successes in that, but something was missing. He wanted to promote something of his own creation. But what did he, twenty-five year-old Manish, have to promote? What did he have that was unique?
It could have hit him out of nowhere, a shock that drew him from his sheets in the middle of the night. Or perhaps it hit him in the afternoon, as he continued his tradition of making chai at home. Perhaps the fragrant steam rose from the kettle and tickled his nostrils, tempting an idea. It hit him. Manish had a product. He had a recipe for chai that was authentic, delicious, and totally unavailable in the current market.
Shortly thereafter, the twenty-something Manish sat smiling at a small table at a local farmers’ market. His broad smile masked his nerves—the single product splayed across his table represented his personal savings, an investment, represented risk. Manish had no idea if his product would take off and pay off. He had no idea how the market would respond. And he had no idea where he would end up.
The original chai is still presented every week at the farmers’ market, that hasn’t changed—but nearly everything else has. In addition to chai, Maya Tea offers over two hundred blends of teas. We sell at four local farmers’ markets, as well as to restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels across the country. We sell online, and now even internationally. And Manish is not alone, he’s got a staff of six to help his vision grow and take form. Plus, he has you—the dedicated listeners of Steeping Around.
Eleven-year-old Manish never would have guessed that, someday, the chai he prepared for his parents would be sold worldwide. College-graduate Manish never would have imagined that his single product would become the root of a multi-faceted business. And twenty-something Manish could not have predicted the ways that a small tea company could branch out into education and entertainment. But here we are—the Maya Tea Company, Steeping Around. Your blessed crew.
Who knows where we’ll go from here.
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