Four years ago, former graphic designer Jiten Suchede launched his first pop-up chai thela at a Delhi handicrafts mela—an ode to the fennelflavoured chai he remembered from his days as a student. His wanted to create an alternative to the Barista-style cafes, one that captured some of the old-school chai stall’s sense of community.
Now, Suchede’s pop-up, Jugmug Thela, is a permanent fixture at Champagali, an erstwhile warehouse in Delhi’s Said-ul-Ajaib that has been converted into a conglomerate of cafes and startups. Aside from Jugmug Thela, Champagali is also home to the swish Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters, as well as Suchede’s Jamura Design outlet. There’s also a small shop called Jugaad, run by Karm Marg, an NGO that works for orphans—which is another focus of Suchede’s business. In 1999, after buying a bag from People Tree, he noticed a tag saying it had been made by street children. He tracked down the NGO behind it—Karm Marg—and began volunteering with them. When Suchede opened his chai venture, he decided to hire young people graduating from such care homes.
Jugmug Thela has an industrial feel, but the smell of chai and the sound of conversation give it a sense of community. As Suchede says, everything can be recreated, if not reproduced.