Our Story

The Chai Cart®, founded by Paawan Kothari, has its roots in San Francisco's street food culture. Paawan grew up in India and came to the US in the mid-nineties to pursue a degree in Computer Science. She has 10+ years of experience working with small and large technology firms in Silicon Valley and an MBA from INSEAD, France. 

Paawan writes about how it all started:

In the summer of 2009, while I was employed as a marketing manager at IBM, I decided to become a tea vendor. That summer, an underground street-food movement started to grow and gain popularity in San Francisco. I wanted to recreate some old memories from my experience in India where chai is the fabric of social life. Pulling a bicycle trailer, I started peddling homemade chai in my neighborhood in San Francisco.  

It initially started as a hobby: something I did on weekends. Customers kept coming back for more as the warmth and the aroma of the chai was in turn igniting fond memories for them. To some it rekindled memories of their travels. To others it reminded them of Christmas, of home. Nothing had been more fulfilling to me than to hear customers say that the chai made their day.

So, I quit my job and transformed the bicycle trailer into a sidewalk cart. 

I enjoy the art of bringing together different herbs and spices and delicately balancing their flavors to create the perfect cup of chai every time. It brings me great pleasure to share a part of my culture and give a taste of the traditional chai that’s enjoyed every day across India.