Chai is becoming one of the most popular alternatives to coffee, and Henny & Joe’s have developed a vegan and caffeine free version of the product.
Lottie Bailey launched Henny & Joe’s chai syrup business with her husband Ash five years ago. Since then Henny & Joe’s have won the Taste of the West contest three years in a row.
Business Advice caught up with Bailey to discover how it all started, her business highlights and why sustainability is so important to their business.
Who are you and what is your business?
We are a small couple-run business, it’s me and my husband that started this about five years ago. The company is named after our two little boys. We specialise in creating a handcrafted concentrate that can be used to create chai lattes, chai teas as well as cakes, porridge, custard, and so on. It’s very versatile. Our rich brown masala chai syrup is created from a blend of aromatic whole spices: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, all spice, vanilla, star anise, nutmeg, fennel seed and mixed spice, as well as sugar and water.
It started from working in a coffee house as a barista. Basically, realising the chai what was on the market was very artificial, didn’t taste very nice, was full of preservatives and additives – just not good stuff. We wanted to take that and make it what it should be. Chai is a wonderful drink it has been around for hundreds of years and we wanted to make it right again.
The product that we use if that of a natural concentrate, whereas most of the chais out there, you know, spices are expensive at the end of the day. They don’t want to waste money on real spices. What we’ve done is taken real whole spices and processed them in the traditional Indian way, in the traditional method to cook it and it is vegan, caffeine, allergen, additive, preservative free.
What else makes your business unique?
At Henny and Joe’s, we like to do our bit for the environment. Owing to the friendship that Henny and Joe’s has created with the cafés and businesses we supply, the majority of the empty bottles are returned to us, which are then re-used.
We also ensure that all our packaging is made from nothing but recycled cardboard. Our creative packaging boffins have designed the perfect packaging to keep your chai safe all the way to your front door, using as little cardboard as possible. We also ensure that our business creates little waste material. So, all our used spices are dried in the sun and turned into potpourri- perfect for your home at Christmas.
Who do you supply to?
We only supply small, independent companies because we want to support the hard-working individuals out there.
What do you hope to get out of London Coffee Festival?
We are hoping to get some more stockers here. We supply all over the UK but London is definitely a grey area for us. It’s something we haven’t really done much of in the past. We are also trying to get people to try it. There are still many people out there who have no idea what chai is. So, we’re just getting people to try it, sample it, show them what it is, show them what it should taste like. Then hope that people come around to it.
Why is it so important to you to have natural ingredients?
It’s in our ethos that we will only ever use 100 per cent natural ingredients.
What is the most exciting part of the festival?
I mean it’s a big festival, apparently, we are going to expect over 30,000 people here over the next four days. So that right there is probably the most exciting thing, all those people seeing our branding and recognising us and thinking “yeah I saw those guys at London Coffee Festival”.
Is it difficult working so closely with your husband?
It can be you’ve got to be able to separate your time efficiently, otherwise you are at each other’s throats 24/7.Then it’s really difficult. You’ve got to have separate jobs, you’ve got to run your business in your own ways. We still argue don’t get me wrong, we argue quite a lot. But there are things that I run and things that he runs. Then at 7 o’clock we don’t mention the word chai, chai is gone. Then we’re a couple again and that’s how it works.
What advice do you have for other startups?
Just stick at it keep going, there have been times where we have been like no, not going this anymore. If it was not going the way we wanted it to or this problem happened and now we have to start from square one. But just keep going, it is worth it in the end.
Have you had any problems along the way?
Probably dealing with small companies, because when you are a small company people don’t take you seriously and they never will. But it’s just learning how to deal with it. I think winning some awards were what really helped us get through that.
What have your business highlights been?
Winning the awards are up there. We won the best hot drink in the south west for three years in a row and only then did people start to take us seriously. I think the third year in a row people kind of went “yeah, do you know what these guys are quite good”.
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