When Amy Rothstein, 27, was in grad school at NYU, she spent a lot of time in coffee shops, where she came to the realization that there was a gap in the market — one that she might be able to fill. Cafés either weren’t serving chai lattes or they were using what she calls “corporate chais” — overly sweet mixtures made from unnatural ingredients.
“I didn’t understand why chai was always so sweet,” Rothstein said.
In March 2014, with her brother Peter, 25, as business partner, she launched Dona Chai, a Brooklyn-based company that makes a slow-steeped chai tea concentrate for coffee shops, grocery stores and specialty shops.
The chai is made from fresh ginger and whole spices including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and black pepper, with a subtle sweetness and just 28 calories per serving.
Why is the company named Dona Chai? “It was named after a doll (‘Donna’) that my mom had growing up,” Rothstein said. “We used to play with her at my grandmother’s house.” Rothstein, who grew up in a suburb of Detroit with a large Jewish community, said she liked the name because it had a connection to family.
The concentrate comes in 16-ounce glass bottles and mini 8-ounce bottles that are sold in 4-packs. It’s available in over 400 locations, including many coffee shops in New York City and all the Whole Foods coffee bars. It’s available for purchase on the Dona Chai website, which also offers recipes including this one for mulled cider:
Dona Chai Spiced Cider
Makes 1 quart
9 ounces Dona Chai
23 ounces apple cider
Mix Dona Chai and apple cider. Heat and serve.
Liza Schoenfein is food editor of the Forward. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter, @LifeDeathDinner