The summer of 2020 was an uncertain time as cities across Canada entered second lockdowns. Many sought comfort in hobbies or activities they might not have otherwise to cope with a changing and sometimes scary world. Some baked bread while others read books or took up knitting. For husband-and-wife duo Saad and Seher, this desire for distraction and comfort sparked an idea.
From their locked-down Toronto home, the couple launched a venture in July with the hopes that they might bring warmth to those in their community. Their new business, Cardamom & Co, centered around a simple, comforting activity: making traditional chai.
“We think chai is a very warm and comforting drink. And because of the pandemic, people were really stressed,” Seher says. “We were having a lot of conversations about mental health and isolation.”
Seher explains that many people, particularly those who aren’t South Asian, have never made chai the traditional way, which involves heating a combination of whole spices on the stovetop along with water, milk, and tea leaves. Instead, many Canadians reach for the prepackaged tea bags or concentrates sold in grocery stores.
Realizing this pleasant activity was unfamiliar to so many people, Seher and Saad decided to build a business around it. They packaged all the required spices in one box so people could make their own stovetop chai from scratch. Seher added a recipe card, cute packaging, and personalized handwritten notes.
“We turned it into a gift box that was like a full experience. And that process just happened organically,” she says.
With so many people unable to see their loved ones in person, the chai kits offered a way to send warmth to those they missed—as a meaningful care package or gift set. With so much time connecting online, Seher was excited to offer a more heartfelt and tactile experience to connect people.
“It’s such a rare experience these days. Most people send gifts that are virtual gift cards,” she says. “So this is a unique, heartwarming and thoughtful gesture. And I think that really resonates with people and it makes them feel excited.”
“I still remember the first sale that we got,” Seher says. It was from a stranger who’d stumbled upon Cardamom & Co’s Instagram. “We were just so over the moon.”
As months went by, sales continued to grow. By the fall, Cardamom & Co was consistently selling out of product.
“We sold hundreds of chai kits in just a few mon