It is a small tea kiosk, that could be easily lost among the clutter of shops on Madurai’s busy West Masi Street. But in the last five years, it carved a niche for itself selling its own brand of tea called the RS Pathy Nilgiri Tea.
While adjacent shops wait for the odd customer to walk in during these times of COVID-19 lockdown, this tea kadai is attracting a steady stream of customers eager to sip the chai, a hallmark product of the 111-year-old company. But what’s new? Now, tea here is served in edible chocolate-flavoured biscuit cups.
Creative bent: The kiosk has been run by the Sabaapathy family for four generations special arrangement
Ever since the concept was launched on June 15, the shop has been selling a minimum of 500 cups a day. “Had it not been for the lockdown, we would have seen many more people crowding the shop,” says Vivek Sabaapathy, a fourth-generation member of the business family. It was his idea to introduce tea in an edible cup.
The cup tastes like a cross between an ice cream cone and a chocolate biscuit and holds 60 ml of hot tea for about 10 minutes. That is roughly the average time people take to finish the tea before turning to the cup, which turns soggy on the inside and has that very familiar taste of a biscuit dipped in tea.
At ₹20 each, the cuppa has already earned a fan following. “People are finding it safe, hygienic and a little more filling than the regular cup of tea, and are also happy about its zero-waste value,” says Sabaapathy, who spent a year searching for something suitable to serve his brand of tea in, following the State Government’s ban on plastic in January 2019.
From the environment-unfriendly plastic cups, Sabaapathy had first switched to paper cups, then to the one-time-use kulhars (earthen cups), till he found a Hyderabad-based company manufacturing wafer cones and cups. In the first consignment that arrived, he suffered 50% breakage in transportation and learnt his lesson fast. “Packaging these cups is challenging and now we are getting them in sealed packets of six each that are placed safely in recyclable crates (similar to egg crates).”
The lockdown has delayed deliveries, but the breakage has now been reduced to less than 20% with improvised packaging, he says, and hopes to introduce multiple flavours of the biscuit cup soon. Sabaapathy was ready to launch the edible cups in multiple flavours in March, but the pandemic slowed down his plans.
In the last three months, whenever lockdown norms were relaxed, the outlet functioned from 9.30 am to 8.30 pm. And, he smiles, “Business has not been dull.”