Based in Littleton, New Hampshire, where she’s owned the beloved Chang Thai Cafe since 2008, entrepreneur Emshika Alberini looked to her family’s food history to inspire By Emshika, her new range of canned beverages that includes an oat milk Thai tea latte (the most similar in taste to Thai iced tea from a restaurant), a nitro Thai iced tea, a nitro Thai iced coffee and an oat milk Thai coffee latte. All four of these delicious drinks are dairy-free and composed of 100% natural ingredients with no added sugar. Fans of the bright orange beverage, which isn’t entirely Thai in origin (rather, the result of Western influence on Thai street food culture), will find much to appreciate in all four products—especially Alberini’s commitment to quality.
“As a Thai person, I know that if you go to a Thai restaurant you will taste a difference between what we make and what is served there,” Alberini says. “It is different. But it was my intention to make a better product, one that I can believe in. I have two kids. I want their generation to know something meaningful, but healthier.”
Alberini’s family plays an integral role in everything from her work ethic to the recipes behind her cuisine. “My grandmother owned a grocery store,” she says. “In Thailand, if you have a grocery store and want to make fresh food and sell it that day, you can. I traveled to visit my grandmother every year and help her with the store. In the morning, she would wake up at 3AM, get fish from local fishermen and cook curries and sell it at 6AM or trade it within the community. She was the first-ever boss woman around me.”
In the afternoon, with her grandmother, the tea would come out. “We drank Thai tea without milk,” she says. “We liked to put lime in it. We didn’t have the latte, the Western style most people know. It didn’t have that orange color. That color came later to make it prettier.” Thai iced tea remains Alberini’s favorite beverage today.
Another family member would inspire her entry into the culinary world. “My sister was a chef at an upscale restaurant in New Jersey. I went to college in Upstate New York. I got my masters in organization management. During the school year, I had been waitressing to support myself. Then I was working in corporate, after graduation. On my birthday in 2006, my sister called me early in the morning. She passed away accidentally in her apartment, with her boyfriend, later that day because of smoke inhalation. She’d always wanted to open a restaurant in New Hampshire with me. It hit me very hard.”
Alberini left her corporate job. A pizza place in town closed. “I was pregnant. I knew what I had to do,” she explains. “I took out $20,000 in credit. My landlord helped me with the building. I financed everything. I started out small but I continued to grow. I paid off the debt in less than six months. Now, I’m considered one of the best restaurants in New Hampshire.”
The development of these four products became a refreshing new challenge, more than a decade later. “A few ingredients make Thai iced tea delicious,” she says. “So, I got the best tea leaves from a sustainable source. Then I had to make it creamy. I wasn’t going to use condensed milk because it has so much sugar. So I had to find the best milk and ended up with premium oat milk. To keep to zero sugar, I ended up sweetening with monk fruit. Simple, transparent and good. That’s what I needed. It was difficult because people love the artificial one. We asked ourselves, ‘How do we get something like that, with our ingredients?’ That was the problem we had to solve.” Her packaging and producing partner wasn’t interested in cutting corners and supported their integrity throughout.
“We started out with the tea—which we refer to as the original—or our tea latte. Then we thought about the coffee. My co-packer is so efficient. They can produce 3000 cans in one hour. So I brought a sample of coffee and it came out perfectly. We developed that recipe in a few days.” She says the tea and coffee products are like brothers and sisters, but it is still a trial-and-error scenario and they’re not opposed to changing things down the line. They’re also working to certify as non-GMO and as a B Corp. For can design, Alberini partnered with Kelsey Stromski, a friend who owns the branding company Favor The Brave. A clear, elegant branding was designed and the cans began to make their way into the world.
A 12-can sampler pack can be purchased online for $46.
Images courtesy of By Emshika