Here comes the sun

Monique Dupuis’ sticky, whole spice, turmeric masala chai is win­ning the hearts of ‘real chai’ lovers in Up­per Moutere and be­yond


Real chai, made by Monique Dupuis, is Up­per Moutere’s flavour of the month

When Monique Dupuis re­turned to the South Is­land after 14 years liv­ing in Syd­ney, it was to a sunny home on the hill­side in Up­per Moutere, a beau­ti­ful coun­try vil­lage out­side Nel­son. Monique an­swered the call of home and – along with part­ner Tay­lor Eaton and their two chil­dren, nine-year-old Hen­drix and five-year-old Luna – started a new jour­ney.

“I love that you can sip a cup of chai and it’s ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit­ing your health”

After leav­ing be­hind The Shop Next Door, their surf shop and cafe in Syd­ney’s beach sub­urb of Manly, the family were kindly gifted a pro­tea flower farm by a friend upon their re­turn to New Zealand. While the farm had not been at­tended to for a cou­ple of years, it still boasted at least 20 pro­tea species including waratahs, leu­ca­den­drons, leu­cosper­mums and sil­ver dol­lar gums (eu­ca­lyp­tus).

Monique now takes care of the farm, cut­ting and sell­ing to the lo­cal flower whole­saler and mak­ing up her own flo­ral ar­range­ments for sale – a skill she ac­quired dur­ing her time work­ing for Gran­di­flora in Syd­ney. “I’ve al­ways ad­mired flow­ers and their beauty,” says Monique, “and when I was able to see how the proteas grew on the bush from their struc­tural buds to their open­ing bloom, I gained a whole new ap­pre­ci­a­tion.” But while her botan­i­cal ba­bies kept Monique busy, it wasn’t long be­fore she yearned to ex­pand her cre­ative en­deav­ours fur­ther.

“I was in­spired to make my own chai as I’ve al­ways loved the chai brew­ing process, the warm­ing ef­fects and the flavour,” she ex­plains. “The cul­ture be­hind tra­di­tional chai has al­ways cap­tured me.” The blend­ing of fra­grant spices, medic­i­nal herbs and As­sam tea leaves is an an­cient rit­ual of Ayurveda, the tra­di­tional holis­tic medicine of In­dia. When Monique en­coun­tered the pow­der that passed for chai back in New Zealand, she set out to cre­ate her own blend that would be as good for the body as it is for the soul – and de­li­cious, too.

Aim­ing to fill a gap in the mar­ket for whole-spice, loose-leaf chai in New Zealand cafes and homes, Sunhouse Chai was born in Au­gust 2016. All the ingredients Monique uses for her sticky turmeric masala chai – the whole spices, As­sam tea leaves, gin­ger root and turmeric – are or­ganic, with the ex­cep­tion of the South Is­land raw bush

honey. “It is very im­por­tant to me to use and of­fer or­ganic ingredients as I feel your health should not be com­pro­mised,” says Monique. “If you’re go­ing to be sip­ping chai ev­ery day, you want it to be good for you.” Monique ex­plains that the blend of spices in Sunhouse Chai con­tains medic­i­nal and heal­ing prop­er­ties which help to im­prove di­ges­tion, boost the me­tab­o­lism and im­mu­nity, im­prove car­dio­vas­cu­lar health and even as­sist with symp­toms of PMS.

Monique hand-blends her chai in small batches in a commercial kitchen out the back of the Old Post Of­fice Store in Up­per Moutere, where Moutere Gold jams and chut­neys are also made. The kitchen may be small but it’s fully equipped, and be­ing sur­rounded by a beau­ti­ful coun­try gar­den and daily bird­song suits Monique to a tee. “The lo­cal school is right next door. When I’m in the kitchen mak­ing chai, some­times I can hear my chil­dren play­ing,” she says. Monique stocks her chai at the store out the front, along­side fresh cheeses, pre­serves from Moutere Gold, olive oils, choco­late, ar­ti­san breads and lo­cal free-range eggs.

Dur­ing the spring and sum­mer, the store is also home to a Satur­day farm­ers’ mar­ket, which Monique started in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Old Post Of­fice Store owner, Joanne Costar, last November. A few lo­cal grow­ers bring their goods along to sell, including manuka-smoked sal­mon, salami, bier­sticks, smoked toma­toes and gluten-free sausages made by lo­cal chef Miles Drury, plus au­then­tic crepes cooked to or­der by a lo­cal French­woman. Monique sells her flow­ers and sticky chai in take-home bags.

“In my eyes, Sunhouse Chai is spe­cial be­cause of the care­fully sourced ingredients, the su­per-duper turmeric gran­ules scat­tered all the way through and the real, earthy flavour cre­ated from the whole spices I toast and grind by hand,” says Monique. She’s unashamedly pas­sion­ate about her au­then­tic sticky chai masala and in­sists that the tea is to be made the proper, old-fash­ioned way – two gen­er­ous ta­ble­spoons brewed in a small pot with boil­ing water and milk for four min­utes, then served with a sprin­kle of cin­na­mon or turmeric pow­der. “I love that you can sip a cup of chai and it’s ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit­ing your health,” she says. “Sunhouse Chai to me is sun­shine in a cup.”

Sea change Orig­i­nally from Christchurch, Monique moved back to the South Is­land with her family in June 2016. “Life now is very dif­fer­ent to Syd­ney life,” she says. “It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of beau­ti­ful.”

Liv­ing lo­cal Monique uses raw bush honey from the top of Takaka Hill in the South Is­land for the Sunhouse Chai sticky turmeric masala mix, while her whole spices are bought from two dif­fer­ent or­ganic spice im­porters in New Zealand. “I am so grate­ful they ex­ist!” says Monique.

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