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Kolkata Chai Co. Introduces Soft Serve to Its Menu

Kolkata Chai Co. Introduces Soft Serve to Its Menu

When we think of the word “chai”, it’s common to associate it with chai tea, mainly because the word ‘chai’ directly translates to the word ‘tea’ in Hindi. Although the most notorious way to consume chai is by drinking it, the spices used in chai can be implemented into many things other than just tea. Chai has gained popularity across America in recent years, but it has origins in India that date back to over 5,000 years ago. Americans may have a preconceived notion that chai is supposed to be sweet, spicy, sugary, creamy, and syrupy, but in reality, it’s challenging to find an authentic cup of chai in America – well, that was until Ayan and Ani Sanyal decided to open Kolkata Chai Co., NYC’s #1 Masala Chai café.

Ayan and Ani, co-founders of Kolkata Chai Co., are two brothers who were born in the United States, but spent a lot of time in Kolkata, India, growing up, due to their parents being from the city. The foundation of Kolkata Chai Co. was meant to stand on one principle: how could they bring authentic Masala Chai to NYC and reestablish how chai has been misrepresented in the States? What started as a pop-up at festivals and markets in 2018, quickly turned into a strong brand when Ayan and Ani began to better understand their audience. By 2019, Kolkata Chai Co. was not only an e-commerce business, but also a brick and mortar storefront on the Lower East Side of New York City. Opening a storefront was something the Sanyal brothers never imagined possible, but after seeing the demand for their product, they knew their chai could fulfill the gap in the market.

Among their captivating menu can be found different types of chai such as Masala chai, Kesar chai, and Dirty chai, variations of Indian coffee, iced lattes, seasonal teas and lemonades, and light snacks such as egg rolls, samosas, and vegan parathas. The newest addition to the menu is something that, for good reason, has received a lot of hype on social media: vegan chai soft serve. Spaceman USA was given the opportunity to conduct a one-on-one interview with Ani Sanyal, and he gave us the inside scoop on all things Kolkata Chai Co., including how well the soft serve has been performing.  Here’s what we found out…

This Wasn’t Ayan and Ani’s First Rodeo with Ice Cream

Around two years ago, Ayan decided it would be beneficial to add hard ice cream to Kolkata’s menu. He experimented for weeks and months trying to concoct the perfect chai ice cream recipe, and by the time it was finalized, he realized it was more trouble than it was worth. While the ice cream tasted phenomenal and was a total hit for the time being, scooping it was difficult and time consuming, it was strenuous to keep up with the demand which led to an out of stock product, and simply put, it just wasn’t efficient.

Soft Serve Was the Answer

It wasn’t until earlier this year that Ayan and Ani came to a mutual decision that it was time to bring ice cream back to Kolkata Chai Co.’s menu, minus all the hassle. That’s when they decided to try something else – soft serve ice cream. In May 2022, they purchased a Spaceman 6210-C single flavor soft serve ice cream machine. Ayan was the one responsible for creating their vegan, chai, oat milk soft serve, and it was no easy task. As Ani tells us, Ayan wanted to create the “perfect marriage of sweet and spicy” for this soft serve, but while testing different recipes, Ayan found that it would sometimes taste too much like spice, or too much like tea. Funnily enough, the night before the soft serve debuted on June 21st, 2022, is when Ayan formulated his winning chai oat milk soft serve. Now that the recipe is finalized and the taste is delectable, they follow the recipe down to a T to produce their mixture, and the product comes out consistent every time. We don’t know what their secret recipe is, but we do know that they use a blend of chai spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper, along with Oatly’s non-dairy soft serve mix. While the duo does not have an exclusive partnership with Oatly, they choose to use the brand’s products because they are “by far the best tasting, and the consistency holds up better than other brands”, explained Ani.

The Response Has Been Incredible Thus Far

After seeing how successful the response to the soft serve seemed online, we had to hear first-hand how it’s been.  In Ani’s words, it has been “through the roof”, and the soft serve is doing even better than their hard ice cream did. A lot of the attention the soft serve has been receiving is due to Kolkata Chai Co.’s savvy Instagram and TikTok accounts, where clips of the ice cream have gotten hundreds of thousands of views. Ani said that other than their regulars, customers from all over the city are coming into the cafe specifically to try this unprecedented treat.  To Ani’s knowledge, Kolkata Chai Co. is the only place in New York City selling authentic vegan chai soft serve, putting the shop in a league of its own. “No one is coming close to what we’re doing”, said Ani. “We’re the hottest ones for sure, and I say that with all due respect.”

Their Machine Will Soon Be Profitable

Although the soft serve has only been around for a month, it’s been a huge success. Ani stated that he believes the soft serve is at its peak right now due to their videos going viral, along with the sweltering weather New Yorkers have been experiencing in the past few weeks. The soft serve, which is currently only sold in one size cup, has been making up a large percentage of Kolkata Chai Co.’s total orders, with the shop selling around 50-75 units per day. By the end of the summer, Ayan and Ani expect their Spaceman USA machine to be profitable, meaning they’ll re-coup what they spent on the machine, and then they’ll be making profit on top.

Kolkata Chai Co. May Be Expanding

Kolkata Chai Co. currently offers only one flavor of soft serve due to their limited space, but they have plans to expand their retail presence by Q1 or Q2 of next year. If this is to happen, Ani says they would consider purchasing a twin-twist soft serve machine that allows them to produce two different flavors of ice cream as well as a twist of both flavors combined. However, since the feedback to the chai oat milk soft serve has been so positive, they believe it’s best to stick to their central “powerhouse” flavor for right now, since that is what’s working best for them. As Ani quoted, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Although they only have one flavor of soft serve, that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your treats. One customer can be seen in an Instagram video here, adding coffee to her chai soft serve, making a DIY affogato, or as Ani likes to call it, a “chaffogato.”

Things to Look Forward To

Something to look forward to at Kolkata Chai Co. is their new seasonal menu for the fall time, which will be making its arrival around the second week of September. However, with the good comes the bad, and that means the chai soft serve will only be available for a limited time. If you have not tried their one-of-a-kind soft serve, be sure to make your way on over before they pack away the machine for the wintertime. But, who knows? Maybe, just maybe, they’ll find a way to package their soft serve and sell it online year-round, so we don’t need to go months without our chai soft serve fix.


*Thank you Ayan and Ani Sanyal for agreeing to do a spotlight with Spaceman USA and for providing us with valuable insights into your business, Kolkata Chai Co. We are delighted to be a part of this experience with you, and we cannot wait to see the new heights that your business reaches.


8/5/2022 – Justine Gerace

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