Tea Post
A Tea Post cafe in India Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: An Indian business is out to make “tea cafes” trendy hotspots in Dubai, in much the same way Starbucks or Caribou has done with coffee.

Tea Post, the largest operator of tea-focussed cafes in India with more than 175 locations, has sights on Dubai for its first international push.

No boundaries 

“Tea is a taste not just limited to Indian boundaries — the number of tea connoisseurs has grown rapidly globally in the last decade,” said Puneet Tibrewala, a Director at the company, which opened its first care in the western Indian state of Gujarat in 2013.

“Dubai is an ideal launch pad to gain access and understand global markets - hence the reason to test the waters.”

Or to have a sip of consumer tastes in this market, as the case here.

Tea cafes have, in the last two to three years, been brewing up all across Dubai, offering sips across all price points. Whether it’s a home-grown brand such as Filli or those from abroad – TWG Tea or Dilmah – the choices are plenty.

All-days, all night cafes

And, in the last year or so, all-day and all-night cafes have sprung in some neighbourhoods, their popularity driven by how well they serve up a cup of Dh1 ($0.27) “karak” tea.

Can Tea Post then break into a hugely competitive marketplace?

According to Tibrewala, the UAE’s geographical proximity to India helps, as does the “setting up the supply chain on account of local availability of ingredients”.

Easier from rental angle

Retail rents too have dipped quite significantly in Dubai, especially in locations outside of malls. This would ease the picking up of spots for the first outlets, and the promoters of Tea Post are well aware of that.

“The Dubai audience and time will decide the way forward - from a strategy point of view, we will be evaluating both high-street and mall locations,” said Tibrewala.

“Dubai is a representative market of the global economy with more than 150 nationalities.”

Break coffee’s grip

The promoters will not have it easy breaking into the strong coffee culture of the city’s residents. A visit to Starbucks or any other international speciality coffee chain outlet is as much about that individual’s lifestyle statement as it is about his or her taste.

Heading out for tea may not have the same punch, especially with millennials.

This is the mindset Tea Post wants to break. It will be looking to repeat the same formula that worked for it in India, where the operator has strong roots in western India. It is yet to transition into a pan-India brand – and that’s going to be the next step alongside building an international presence.

“Tea Post is following a city-wise cluster approach - but you need to be at the right price point,” the official added. “We think a significant presence across the nation would mean having at least 5,000 outlets and there would still be scope to double them.

“We will take around 3-5 years to be called a pan-India company.”

For now, the attention is focused on Dubai. The coffee culture “rules the streets”, and it’s something Tea Post wants to change a bit.