She's Empowered Spotlight: Sally & Esar of SØUL CHAÍ

She's Empowered Spotlight: Sally & Esar of SØUL CHAÍ

Introducing Sally and Esar, Co-Founders of your new favorite Chai blend: SØUL CHAÍ! We're so excited to be featuring them both, as they are also a local Portland and women-owned business! You can read more about them below!


Tell us a little about you!

We are Sally and Esar, owners of Soul Chai! We met at a cafe in 2020 where Esar was working at the time and ended up connecting over our shared love of chai tradition, travel and art. Both having backgrounds in specialty coffee, we bonded over the disappointment around the sugary, diluted, liquid chai concentrates that most shops carry out of convenience. We decided to be the change and got to work sourcing, blending, designing and finally, offering waste-free, unsweetened, aromatic masala chai that baristi and folks at home can be proud to serve.


What do you do for work? Tell us about your professional journey.

Esar: After about 10 years in specialty coffee and a few as a freelance consultant, I am so proud to have taken the leap into my role in community + creative direction for Soul Chai. I’m grateful everyday to have the opportunity to grow my creative interests, connect with incredible people and pay tribute to my Pakistani roots. 

Sally: It has been an exciting journey launching and growing Soul Chai. With a start in coffee back in the 90s to now -  my professional journey has pulled together years of experience in business, sales, entrepreneurship. As a mom of two teenagers, it’s wonderful to demonstrate the gathering of experiences that move one along. 

How do you stay motivated?

Esar: Working on a team and working with spaces that celebrate sustainability, accessibility, diversity & accountability keeps me motivated. Marginalized voices in the coffee/tea industry bridge the gap where consumers have been removed from the origin/producers of the commodities they take for granted. This work is so important- it inspires me to create space and pay it forward. 

Sally: The vision of a warm chai-time being shared in cafes and homes across the country and beyond. It’s amazing how we can connect in conversation and over a warm beverage.


Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting a business/blog?

Esar: Choose the role you can sustain not the role you think you need! 

Sally: Be open - launching something is interesting because you get to see a vision morph into experience for others. They receive your product and run with it in their way, be ready to see that. 

What are your favorite ways to #spreadgood in your community?

Esar: Ooh I love that question. For me, so much of doing good has to do with planting the seeds in the right way. As a business owner, this looks like inviting the underserved to a seat at your table so the decisions you make are full of perspective and consideration. On a daily basis though, my favorite way would be by finding creative ways to make the people around me feel seen & supported. Keeping in mind while interacting with others that there is no shortage of spirit and love that I can pass on. 

Sally:  Looking for ways to highlight creativity and thoughtfulness from voices and people not otherwise seen or heard. 


Who is one person who inspires you and why?

Esar: Wow! My dad, Irshad. I’m so appreciative of his capacity to love others. Despite immigrating to the states with just a few hundred dollars and the many curveballs life has thrown his way, he moves through the world with such a generous spirit and an awesome sense of humor!

Sally: My mom, her perseverance, strength and ability to keep moving and loving through difficulties and hardship keeps me going. 

How do you work to stay centered and practice self-care in your busy day-to-day reality?

Esar: Still learning this one! I stay grounded by being mindful/giving thanks throughout the day to all that is supporting me. Literally >> the rug, the little animals on our rug, our home, the grass, each layer of earth, the galaxy.. <3 In the morning (after chai) I like to ask myself, “what are your gifts to give today?” and focus on what I feel excited to contribute. This is a huge privilege/perk of working for myself/working from home. My favorite self-care items are incense (nag champa/ vetiver root bundles) and tea (go figure!) 

Sally: Stepping away for time with my family, my husband and kids, mostly in the beautiful PNW - often with a carafe of chai.  That and running, I go on long trail runs, not listening to anything but my thoughts and the birds.


What do you like to do for fun, when you aren't working?

Esar: Lately I’ve fallen in love with film photography so grabbing my camera and walking around the city. I also really love to explore new restaurants/cafes as a way to catch up with friends. 

Sally: Anything outside, running, surfing, hiking, exploring

What are some of your favorite recipes with Ground Up?

Esar and Sally: We are cardamom people so we love Ground Up’s Pumpkin Cardamom fudge with a plant-based yogurt. With just 4 ingredients it’s great to make with kiddos. Currently we’re obsessed with the Walnut-Pistachio Baklava Butter as a drizzle on fruit or banana-bran bread. 



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