“Communication and honesty is the key to success,” says Sneha Bhandare, an architect with a Master’s in Urban Design from CEPT, Ahmedabad, and co-founder of the Nirvana T-shirt brand, which won the Best Business Plan Award from Goldman Sachs, in 2012.
The nationwide lockdown of March 2020 shut down industries and confined people to their homes. And, stranded travellers and jobless labourers were in need of cooked food. In such a situation, Sneha decided to help out by supplying 50 - 60 meals every single day. By May 2020, food was no longer a requirement. So, with time on her hands, she started baking cakes, cookies, doughnuts and calzones, and advertising them on social media.
“My first order — which was for an anniversary cake — was from our neighbour. He appreciated it and promoted it among his friends. As the orders increased, I employed a pastry chef, Chef Schubert. He was the first to join me.”
Sneha came across an online Cloud kitchen workshop by food business mentor, Kiran Biligiri, and immediately enrolled. That also helped her interact with fellow food entrepreneurs and people who selflessly helped upgrade her comprehension of the hospitality business. She discovered that cooking for the family differed from incepting a café — for one, she would need more equipment, and her parents gifted the necessary appliances. Her mentor, Chef Sudipto Ray Chowdhry, came down from Kolkata and helped her transition from a cloud kitchen to an efficient dine-in café.
The ideal venue for a café was a vacant space in the backyard of her home, tucked away 50 m off the highway from Vasco city.
VENUE, MENU & MORE
Café Chai Coffee is a café in the forest, and a forest in a café, designed by Senha’s husband Raj, an architect and artist, who has created a powerful impact. On November 13, 2020, Café Chai Coffee started with five tables, one professional cook and two helpers, and soon added tables and employed three professional chefs.
The verdant ambiance, twittering of birds, the display of old urns and brass utensils, the free-standing installations of the café are pretty much conversation starters, and photographed by customers and shared on social media.
A major shift happened when Sneha met, and invited, Nischay Mankame (Co-Founder & CEO, Soham Foods Pvt Ltd) with a hotel management background, to join as a co-founder. They launched a brand, ‘Baowich’, which was well accepted, and an Asian menu featuring favourites such as Crispy Chicken, non-veg and veg Bao, Teriyaki and Thai Curry Bowl.
The café won the Times of India Garden Café and Bistro Award last month for its curated menu and artisanal space, and has listed Chai Coffee as a must-visit café in Goa.
The food is delicious, the décor is captivating. But wait, there’s more! The custom-designed crockery, with beverages being served in glasses in varying base colours —‘Forest In My Glass’ is green, ‘Sky in my Glass’ is blue, white ‘Cloud in my Glass’ served in monogrammed take away reusable glass bottles — are sure to catch eyeballs.
NOT TO BE MISSED
The Chai (tea) brewed with Orthodox tea leaves, with an in-house masala combination, and served in glasses called ‘Tapri Glass,’ imparts a street chai feel. Scrumptious apple pie, doughnuts, lemon tarts, chicken pie, wood-fired pizzas and quesadillas make perfect quick bites.
Potato Poppers, Roasted Tomato Basil Soup, Peri Peri Fish, Mushroom Penne Pasta, Jerk Chicken with Aglio, rounded off with Chocolate Mud Cake or other flavours of your choice, and decoction coffee with Arabica coffee berry from Coorg are highly recommended for food aficionados. That apart, the café also extends facilities of a four course sit-down dinner for special occasions.
“Our USP is a thoughtfully curated menu and location. We aim to expand across Goa, to be a complete gastronomical solution,” Sneha affirms.
LOCATION: Near MES College, Vasco
TIMINGS: 9.30 am - 11.30 pm (7 days a week)
PRICES: Start at ₹ 110 for a large Bao, ₹ 260 for a Burger; while a meal for two with starters, two mains and dessert will set you back approx Rs 950