Tania Lodi can easily pass off as one of those young millennials born and raised in the UAE, loving her life in this beautiful sun-kissed country.
But hold on. She may be a millennial but the Emirates is relatively new ground. The 25-year-old, who traces her roots to Pakistan, was born and raised in the US.
She is a successful entrepreneur. Her baby, Tania’s Teahouse, is the seventh most instagrammable cafe in the world and fourth most instagrammable cafe in Asia. Travel site Big 7 recently published a ranking of the “most instagrammable cafe’s around the world" and put Tania’s Teahouse in the seventh slot.
The fact that she just set it up over a year ago speaks volumes of her dedication and passion for the business.
The cafe opened in March 2018 and since then more than 50,000 cups of tea have been served to guests. The cafe has seen over three million sales since opening. In her own words, Tania said, her business venture has already seen a break-even and is said to be a profitable venture. Needless to say, since its launch, the cafe has been doing rather well.
About Tania’s Teahouse
For the uninitiated - Tania’s Teahouse is Dubai’s newest hotspot for everything tea-related.
Located on Jumeirah Beach Road, the two-storey cafe serves a wide range of specialty flavoured teas, coffees and dishes including all-day breakfasts, tea sandwiches, super bowls, pastas, sliders, and decadent desserts. Everything on the menu considers allergies and dietary restrictions, with many offerings coming with gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan-friendly options.
Tania has custom-blended each tea herself, and they all come in regular, latte or iced form. Full of health benefits, Tania's Teahouse has an extensive tea menu.
Examples of what you can expect are: ‘BEAU-TEA-FUL SOUL’, a mix of chamomile, lavender, rooibos and peppermint that aids respiratory conditions, dental health and digestive issues. The ‘CHEERFUL CHERRY’ with Ashwaganda root, cranberry, cherries and elderflowers is said to work as a natural de-stresser and mood enhancer. A ‘DETOX, TEA-TOX’ is for one’s immunity with antioxidant–rich ingredients such as lemongrass and jiaogulan, a special plant that aides in increasing resistance to environmental stress.
How it all started
Tania has been conceptualising her business since her university days in Toronto, where she was constantly on the lookout for new cafes to both study in and socialize at. She studied psychology in the University of Toronto (UFT). “It is a tough college to study in. While it is fairly easy to get into, it can be difficult to continue in the college as the curriculum is hard. In fact the exit rate of the university is pretty high.”
Tania said she was constantly on the look-out for places to hang out and have tea. She admitted to being very stressed out in university. With all that tension, Tania found herself falling ill. She developed an auto-immune disorder that caused a lot of pain in her wrists. “And so I wanted to escape it all. And my solace came in cafes and drinking tea.”
“I did not want to resort to medication. Instead I would do a bucket list of cafes each day to visit. The idea was to feel good about myself by just being with other people. My family has taught me to be courageous and pick myself up to do things that make us feel happy. Some people find joy in going for a yoga class, Netflixing. For me it was about visiting a cafe and drinking tea with friends,” she explained.
During this time, Tania was contemplating what to do after college. “I knew that I wanted to do something creative and tea made me happy. So I thought, why not [start] a tea cafe after college?”
“In Toronto I took classes in tea. I met many tea connoisseurs and must have tried 500 cups of different tea before venturing on my own. Trust me, at the end of it I was dizzy.”
Most people think tea is just green, or black or with milk and sugar. “It is not. There are varieties of tea, many of which come with health benefits.”
Seventh most instagrammable cafe in the world
"Our reputation really speaks for itself in terms of customer satisfaction. We have trained our staff to be extremely attentive and receptive to customer needs. We have tried so hard to invoke this feeling of relaxation and comfort where they can come and literally loose themselves. Obviously we have put a lot of work to make our cafe look aesthetically pleasing. All of our food is pretty to look at, but also delicious to eat," said Tania.
Organising the funds
Tania does not belong to a family of entrepreneurs. And so organising funds for the start-up required some effort.
Her vision became a reality when her parents offered to help with the initial capital. “I am grateful for their help. After all, my parents are not part of a business family. Both work for a living. My dad is in the business of finance and my mother is a psychologist. And so it was a huge thing when they offered to part with their money and put it in my business.”
Now, her vision has become a reality.
Tania is a tea enthusiast of course. But with her experience in food allergies and auto-immune, holistic diets, she has put together a menu that caters to an array of needs, whether guests are looking for a healthy breakfast or after-school treats for their children.
Challenges of being a successful entrepreneur
Creating work-life balance
“It is very humbling to know that I am a successful entrepreneur, but it did not come without blood sweat and tears. Running your own business is not all that glamourous as people think it is. I can tell you there is not enough time in the day to get things done. Having a work-life balance can be a struggle and that is my biggest challenge today,” said Tania.
Dealing with competition
"It can be a struggle. In the industry of food and beverages – we are dealing with customer services, suppliers dealing with your staff, constantly changing and being innovative. It is such a fast-moving market. Cafes are open everyday. Keeping up with your competitors whilst also being true to your branding guidelines can be another challenge. And how do I beat it? By drinking [many] cups of tea in a day – at least 10. But they are all herbal so they are doing good to me,” said Tania.
Advice to millennials
“Don’t give up your dream. Keep it going. And remember running a business is not [as] glamourous as it looks. It comes with a lot of blood and sweat, and you should be ready to give that. So if you are a determined person and ready to persevere, go for it,” said Tania.