"Now more than ever I think people need things that ground them and center them," Chandran tells CNBC Make It. "That's why meditation has blown up, that's why yoga is something that's super huge ... tea is this other vehicle for that."
But Chandran's products — blends of organic tea leaves, raw sugar, herbs and spices pressed into a "drop" that dissolves in hot water — are 21st century, user-friendly and aimed at millennial women. They're sold in 1,600 retail locations including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Anthropolgy stores. A $12 box of eight drops is available in flavors like "blueberry acai white tea" and "cardamom spice."
Chandran's business is also starting to attract investors. In May, Tea Drops won a $100,000 investment from fashion entrepreneur Tory Burch, and in June, the company closed a $1.9 million round of seed funding led by women-owned venture capital fund AccelFoods.
For Chandran, who launched the business in 2015 as a single founder, that success is the result of years of hustle: She did everything from craft her own flavor blends to write a patent application herself, initially funding the business with just savings and a line of credit on her home.
"I remember the early days working 13 to 17 hours a day," she says, making, packaging and labeling each product.
Chandran grew up around traditional loose leaf tea and tea culture, something that her Chinese mother and Sri Lankan father brought with them with they immigrated to the U.S. In her home, having tea was a way to relax, bring the family together, and show love.
"For me, tea is this vehicle to certain memories and associations in my childhood," Chandran explains.
When Chandran was sick, her mom would prepare chrysanthemum tea. At parties on her dad's side of the family, women gathered around a cup of black tea or Chai with cardamom, ginger and nutmeg to talk and laugh.
"That's still a go-to," Chandran says. "Whenever my friends come over we make Chai and just talk and chat."
The idea to build a business around tea culture came to Chandran while working in market research at eBay. Chandran would try to prepare a cup at work for a moment of calm in her hectic day, but realized it was more of a hassle than a stress reliever.
"The process to make loose leaf tea was really cumbersome," she explains. "In order to make it, especially at your desk, you need an arsenal of equipment; you need a kettle, you need a strainer to strain the tea, then you have to wait for it to steep for three to seven minutes. By the time you make it you have to run to a meeting."
Instant tea, like the kind you might find in tea bags, is convenient but often considered lower quality compared to loose leaf, Chandran says. "I was never really satisfied with the quality of bag tea. It's usually referred to as 'tea dust,' it's like the last part of production in the tea manufacturing process, so the richness and the aroma and flavor is just never as strong," she says.
Chandran wanted high quality tea brewed quickly, with more time to enjoy and relax. So, she decided to invent something new.