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Chai me 

"I loved coffee," lamented Joel Pace, co-owner of SLO Chai. "I loved coffee so much that I overkilled it. I love robust flavors, and was drinking maybe two or three cups a day. Like a lot of people, I had some pretty gut-rotting feelings from it. Then I started drinking chai. It had a flavor that stood up, not too spicy, not too sweet, and I actually felt good."

click to enlarge EASY BEIN' GREEN :  SLO Chai owners Joel and Tamra Pace bring organic fair trade teas to SLO County and beyond. - PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • EASY BEIN' GREEN : SLO Chai owners Joel and Tamra Pace bring organic fair trade teas to SLO County and beyond.

# Pace spent six months developing SLO Chai. It has a unique flavor profile that balances nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and black pepper. As it turns out, Pace said, each of these spices has benefits beyond what it can do for your taste buds. Chai actually promotes healthy digestion, stimulates metabolism, reduces stress, and helps energize.

SLO Chai isn't exactly a new company it's more of a local favorite. In the last two and a half years, SLO Chai has elbowed its way onto cafe shelves all over the county. Their original recipe is robust, and classic very close to what you might find in India, Pace said. But even if it's not new, a lot has happened for the little company recently.

To begin with, they've gone national with a new chai product the Chai Cream Ale brewed at Central Coast Brewing Co. The ale quickly became a favorite at the brewery, and CCB is now looking to expand and up production to almost four times the current batch. SLO Chai also added to the bouquet tea bags, and the classic chai latte in glass bottles to extend the shelf life.

Pace and his wife, Tamra, have a bigger vision yet for SLO Chai. They operate on what they call a quadruple bottom line: taking into account not just profit, but environmental impact, social responsibility, and philanthropic intent. SLO Chai just handed out its first grant of $200 to local teacher Laura Lopez, who incorporates environmental sustainability into her curriculum.

"It's not huge," Pace said, "but we just really wanted to do something. When we started this thing, it was on a wing and a prayer we're just really excited to be able to give back. The company, which has always been organic, recently became fair trade certified, and considers the move from plastic bottles to glass to be a step in the right direction in reaching their environmental goals.

SLO Chai is already available at Bike Coalition events and HopeDance screenings, and, Pace said, if you want them at your enviro-friendly, community based event "all you have to do is holler."

You can find SLO Chai at cafes around the county and at health stores from Sonoma to Santa Barbara. The Chai Cream Ale is on tap at Central Coast Brew, and in 22-ounce bottles in local markets. For more info about SLO Chai, visit www.slochai.com or call 1-877-FAIR-TEA.

Kylie Mendonca compiled this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send your business news to rmiller@newtimesslo.com or kmendonca@newtimesslo.com.

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