Coffee gives us our daily boost to go, go, go. If you are anything like me, I need at least two cups of coffee in the morning before I am ready for the world. But, when I turn on the kettle in the afternoon for my daily dose of green tea, I am preparing myself for a soothing experience. What I have not thought about is what is inside my little teabag.
Businessman and tea drinker Tariq Al-Aruri always thought he’d be running his own BMW dealership in Palestine. But when he had to leave the country due to political reasons, he joined the world of advertising, a step that would later bring him closer to his passion for a premium, healthy tea.
On a trip to Marrakech, Morocco, in 2005, Tariq accompanied a friend to buy some white tea for his father. Tariq describes his first encounter with ‘real’ tea, “we walked into the tea shop, I meet the owner of the shop, and then he starts explaining everything he knows about tea. I saw about three hundred types of different teas and thought to myself, how can you have so many distinct types of tea? I mean tea, is tea. While he explains the difference between real tea and the tea we drink every day, the only thing that popped into my mind was my mum. Growing up in Oman, we would all gather and have tea with biscuits and fresh cakes, and this is an experience that I treasure very much. Till this day, we continue this tradition.”
It was then when Tariq realised that all this time, he like, everyone else was being tricked into thinking that what they were drinking was something good and healthy when, they were consuming dust mixed with artificial flavour in a bleached bag. This realisation was the beginning of Tariq’s mission to disrupt the tea drinking habits of millions and bring quality products to the much-loved tea traditions in Arabia.
“Arabia is known for its tea traditions, even more so than coffee, so I said I know what I want to do in life. I want to change the way people drink tea. Starting with my mum.”
Using his branding experience, Tariq set out to create a tea brand that was modern and classy. He was determined to move away from the conventional associations that everyone was accustomed to when it came to tea. He wanted to create a lifestyle brand. After all, most moments in our lives start or end with a cup in hand.
“You drink tea when you sick, heartbroken, and I had to make tea more interactive. I wanted tea drinkers to make a statement about how they choose to live life and how conscious they are about what they consume. Full leaf tea requires 3-5 minutes to infuse, and we want to educate people that real tea is different, and Tchaba, through its array of Arabian and internationally inspired flavours will help them rediscover their cup of tea. It is not instant, it is indulgent. It is all about taking time. It is an escape. Initially, I wanted to go to supermarkets, and everyone suggested I build credibility for Tchaba first and what better way to build a brand’s credibility than to have it associated with the world’s most prestigious hotel brands, and there was no shortage of those in Dubai. So, I said OK, from there we went to the big hotels in Dubai however, hotels never heard of Tchaba, and were not prepared to take a chance on a newcomer with no track record.
At this point, Tariq knew that he needed to do something that answered the question of who Tchaba was and was going to be. He created a tea blend called Emirates Spice and took it to Gulfoods in 2006. In perfect timing, the F&B Manager of Ritz-Carlton Jumeriah at the time walked by his stall and tried Emirates Spice, and the rest, as they say, is history. “He tried the tea and said, I want this tea in my hotel, and that was the start of Tchaba going into the hotel industry.”
Once Tchaba was in Ritz-Carlton Jumeriah, doors of other big hotels in the region started opening. Soon, they were situated in Marriott hotels, Kempinski Hotels, and Etihad Airways First and Business Class. Everything was going well, except for one thing.
“The food service business was booming, and, in my rush, I had forgotten about my true purpose for launching Tchaba, my mum and many drinkers like her who deserved to experience real tea. You cannot experience this only in 5-star hotels. So, I opened shops in Dubai, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, and Bahrain. Soon some of our hotel partners approached us to offer our retail range to their guests who were enjoying Tchaba in their lobby lounges and various venues across their property. And that is when we decided to take this concept a step further and work with hotels to convert their lounges into a destination for an unforgettable tea experience. “
This idea was a win-win for both the hotels and Tchaba. Tariq’s idea to turn hotel lobbies into Tchaba Tea Stops gave the end-user that ideal tea experience. A blend of high-quality, premium tea that is healthy for you and that gives you a moment of peace and escape before your next appointment. And according to Tariq, this model has immense potential to grow across the region.
When COVID-19 hit the hospitality industry hard, Tariq decided to invest heavily in eCommerce. A move that he is grateful for today. “Covid was a blessing in disguise, we had to pivot very quickly, and that’s when we went extremely aggressive on our eCommerce platform. Today, we offer second day delivery across the GCC, Jordan, and Morocco. This helped us get closer to our end user, collect feedback, and understand and correct any misconceptions they might have had about tea.”
What gives Tchaba this edge and advantage is its unique flavours. “European manufactures don’t make tea for the Asian and Arabic palate; our taste profiles are different. We tailor-make our oils and spices to match the palate of the local drinkers.”
Today, Tchaba’s eCommerce platform continues to thrive, it can now also be found in Saudia Airlines First and Business Class, their corporate gifting line is doing great, and they are planning to enter premium supermarkets. The brand is also brewing up something exciting set to hit the shelves very soon – they are expanding their premium beverage offerings.
When Tariq discovered real tea in Marrakech all those years ago, he quite literally put it in a Tea Sachet and brought it back for everyone to experience. His dream of creating a better tea experience for all is being realised. And if you are looking for him in the afternoon, be sure to check the time because when he is home everybody knows, 4 pm is mama’s teatime.