Sri Lankan tea brand Dilmah has opened a new tea lounge in Dubai’s Ibn Battuta Mall as part of plans to expand in the Middle East market.
Located in the mall’s Egypt Court, the venue – called t-Lounge – is the brand’s first in the UAE. Currently Dilmah runs two t-lounges in Kuwait, with a third under construction, and also has outlets in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia.
The outlet in Dubai has been opened in collaboration with local partners Ajay Sethi – chairman of the Channel 2 Group, and former Pakistani cricketer Ramiz Raja.
It serves an array of teas in different blends – including in mocktails, shakes and ice-creams. The teas are priced between Dhs25 to Dhs50.
The outlet hopes to serve about 150 customers each day, according to Dilhan Fernando, director of MJF Holdings – which owns and operates the Dilmah brand.
“The relevance today for tea is very high – it helps tackle issues like cancer, stress, cardiovascular diseases etc,” he said.
“And while health is one aspect, the other is luxury. This line [t-Lounge] was born to bring tea to the new generation. I think, after this [ the t-Lounge] people will look at tea differently.”
Targeting discerning customers, the lounge offers “affordable luxury”, according to Fernando.
“There is a lot of effort that goes into the process of making tea. Each cup alone has around 30 hand-picked tea leaves,” he explained.
Fernando also confirmed that the company plans to expand across the UAE and the wider region – specifically in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain.
Preparations are already underway to launch the first t-Lounge in Abu Dhabi, which is expected to be opened before the end of the year.
“Across the UAE, we are expecting to open seven outlets in the next three years,” he said.
The UAE’s tea market has been growing steadily in the last few years, attracting the attention of international tea brands.
According to Euromonitor, the market for tea is expected to grow by 5.4 per cent annually up to 2019.
Tea sales have benefited from increased awareness of flavours and origin among young, affluent consumers, it said in a report.
“High-end tea salons and bespoke cafés are becoming more prominent in the retail landscape. The trend is leaning towards experience and branding of tea, with consumers also looking for increased personalisation. Tea sommeliers help high-end consumers select flavours according to tastes and type of tea,” the report said.
“A select segment of the demographic are able to afford the experience, whilst expatriate customers prefer to purchase familiar versions such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea, although tastes and knowledge of the finer points of the drink are increasing,” it added.