Much as they were for everyone, things were rough for Poorvi Chordia and her family in March of 2020.
Chordia and her husband, Abe Thomas, are both doctors – she works at Grady Memorial Hospital as an internal medicine and infectious disease physician, he as a radiologist at a private practice – and having the kids home from school because of the COVID-19 pandemic was less than ideal. Luckily, they had a couple of cures for the anxiety – gardening and tea.
“We have an urban garden, so a lot of times we would just be outdoors in our garden and tea would be something that we would take with us,” Chordia said. “It would center us, and definitely calm me down.”
Chordia, who moved to the United States from India roughly 14 years ago, has always loved tea – both for its health benefits and taste. As the pandemic wore on, tea became something of a ritual for the family, a way to come together and decompress.
“It took me back to my time in India where we used to sit and talk over chai,” she said. “That’s how we used to start our morning, and that’s how we used to end after a busy day of work.”
As tea became an even more important part of Chordia’s everyday life, she had the idea to bring the love she had for tea to her community. In 2021, she and her kids began going to farmers markets and setting up a booth to sell chai. This is how she and her husband’s business Herbs & Kettles, which now has its own online marketplace, began.
“It was a safe way for the kids and I to be outdoors and still build community and make friends, especially during the height of the pandemic,” Chordia said.
The booth and the tea were a huge hit. According to Chordia, she had customers tell her they had just about given up on Indian tea. But Herbs & Kettles got them back on board.
“When you compare [us] with other companies out there, a lot of companies in the U.S. and other Indian tea companies concentrate on blends, or they still treat tea as a commodity,” Chordia said. “So they’ll sell a low, or medium quality Indian tea and they’ll sell it as ‘India’s Best Tea,’ or a high-end tea. But what we really do is try to get the best batches and support the farmers back in India.”
Chordia, who is a tea sommelier, started with just three flavors at the farmers market. But over time, she began reaching out to some of the tea farmers she knew in India and securing batches of their best stuff. Throughout her life, she and her family had always loved to travel. When she would go back to Mumbai to visit her mother, they would take trips to the northeastern part of the country because of how much they loved the wildlife and biodiversity there. During those trips is when Chordia met some of the tea farmers she now works with.
One of the first she met lived in Darjeeling, a town in the northeasternmost region of West Bengal.
“Over time, he realized I was serious [about tea] and I had a good palette,” Chordia said. “I was really trying to sell his best quality stuff. It wasn’t about trying to bargain with him – I was like, I want to support you.”
Through the connections she made while traveling, Chordia has been able to meet other farmers whose tea she has helped bring to Atlanta.
“We love the community that we have created,” she said. “We still travel back to India and try to get the best batches. We work with new farmers all the time.”
With Herbs & Kettles, Chordia has found her way into the Atlanta culinary community, which has led to a number of different partnership opportunities over the years. One of those partnerships is with Tiffanie Barriere, a local mixologist who has appeared on the Netflix show “Drink Masters.”
“I was curious to see what else we could do with tea – tea by itself and tea as part of a cocktail and as a non-alcoholic mocktail,” Chordia said. ““Tiffanie is really super sweet, and we’ve become close.”
According to Chordia, Barriere used one of Herbs & Kettles’ teas for a cocktail at the most recent Lady Locavores event on March 8, which celebrated women in Atlanta’s food community. Chordia was also one of Lady Locavores’ 2023 honorees.
Chordia said the honor from Lady Locavores made her feel validated in what she has been trying to achieve with Herbs & Kettles – finding a community, and helping small farms in India.
“This started as a passion, a love for people, for tea,” Chordia said. “We obviously hoped that the business was eventually successful, which means maybe making money. But what we really enjoy from the business is the creative aspect and also being able to build community.”