Elevating the customers' experiences through design.
Meet global nomad, Tania Lodi, also founder of one of world’s most instagrammable cafés located in Dubai, Tania’s Teahouse.
Recognized for its unique tea concept and quirky, fun aesthetic, the are recently opened space has quickly become one of the locals’ favorites. Below, Read Tania’s inspirational and personal journey in sharing ‘positivi-tea’ with those around her.
About Tania’s Teahouse
Tania’s Teahouse is Dubai’s most aesthetic hotspot that specializes in tea & providing a truly unique customer experience. Located on Jumeirah Beach Road near the stately Burj Al Arab, the café has become a hot spot for both locals and tourists.
1. Describe yourself as Founder of Tania’s Teahouse.
My blood type is tea-positive! (And clearly puns run in my blood, haha). I’m quirky and a bit off-beat- I’ve always loved thinking outside the box, and I’ve had a whimsical heart of a dreamer. As a business owner with a soft-heart, I’ve had to learn to harness my kindness and balance it with firmness; its a very delicate balance to have, which is why I’ve loved using the motto of “killing with kindness”. I love being one of the team at TTH, and I’ve never asked them to do anything I haven’t done myself (even as menial as cleaning toilet, waiting tables)- and this is my personal philosophy of leading.
2. In a nutshell, describe a day in the life running Tania’s Teahouse.
Each day, is truly unique, which is the double-edged sword of hospitality; from good days where we have amazingly sweet customers, to others where we are firefighting key-board warriors or navigating through unreasonable requests for discounts.
I start each day with mediating & of course, my morning cuppa tea. I go through emails in the morning, that never seem to end, and I check in with our managers on the operations of the day. There’s always things to do as an entrepreneur, especially in an industry that never sleeps! I make sure that my team as support and I never stop planning things (I have a whole note-book dedicated to future ideas/concepts/themes) and I’m always taste-testing teas and coming up with new concoctions. Before sleeping, I try to answer every email in my inbox, as I await for a new flood in the morning!
3. Your sophisticated and pink aesthetic is naturally more attractive to women (in general); was there a specific reason you chose a more feminine theme, knowing that your audience will be primarily females over males?
Growing up in the West & spending a lot of time in Toronto, which is a very progressive & all-inclusive community, I genuinely started to disassociate the color pink from any gender. The psychology of the color pink is as followed: warm, inviting, happy, love, and kindness. In the West, pink is no longer linked with lack of masculinity; major athletic brands have pink kits, and a “pink” cafe won’t necessarily only attract women.
I was a bit surprised to see that in the Middle East, when we first opened most men were a bit hesitant to come, in fear of seeming less-masculine. I was even more determined to break this stereotype of pink = girl, blue = boy. I actually got a nasty, long complaint in the form of an email from a man who was so angry that the cafe was pink, saying he felt “very uncomfortable” sitting around pink and flowers. Imagine- he was angry all because of the color pink! Why must be still be so archaic about what is feminine, and what is masculine? I’m so happy to see over the last 2 years of operations, this barrier has indeed broken. There’s such a difference between the lack of men who used to wander in with their wives/girlfriends, to now groups of men who come in.
"I’ve never asked them to do anything I haven’t done myself."
4. Tania’s Teahouse is listed as the 7th most Instagrammable café in the world (congrats!); was this your strategy and goal when developing the décor? What went on in your head at the time?
Thank you so much! I was genuinely so surprised, humbled and honored! It really blew up all over social media, and has made me determined to go from 7th, to 1st! As the Founder and since the beginning of opening, I’ve been super involved with branding, marketing, social media and content creation. From our website, to our socials, to all of our collateral I’ve really enjoyed doing myself, and then as our budgets increased, working on things with our talented, in-house marketing team. In terms of our cafe decor, we didn’t hire a designer, I did everything myself- every floor board, art piece, speck of paint, and it was a blast! It’s so nice to see hard work paying off, and I’ve always strived to be instagrammable, but impactful. Not just a pretty space. Wholesome, delicious food with a de-stressing & aesthetic ambience.
5. As we know, Dubai is saturated with cafes, what makes Tania’s different? (can touch on anything from food, service, ambiance, offerings, etc).
Tania’s Teahouse utilizes instagram in an impactful way- we believe in creating an aesthetic place that isn’t just pretty to take pictures of- but a place where the food has wholesome ingredients, creative concoctions, teas with profound health benefits in fun flavours, a space for celebrating occasions- whether its corporate or private events, workshops and classes, and weeks dedicated to mental health.
We pride ourselves on being a safe space with zero toxic-tea, and we really work hard to be all-encompassing; dedicating attention towards dietary restrictions and allergies.
We also do themed months or days such as: Alice in Wonderland, Disney Villains, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones etc- which is fun and exciting!
6. What are customers looking for when they step foot in Tania’s Teahouse?
They want a safe space where they can feel happy and light- away from the perils of their daily lives, with exciting tea flavours and a place they can come alone with their laptop or with their friends, families, or tinder dates!
7. How have you dealt with the effects of COVID-19? How have you shifted Tania’s Teahouse offerings to accommodate new consumption behaviors?
During Covid-19, Tania’s Teahouse changed their business model overnight to include deliveries. In particular, TTH was the first cafe in the region to launch cookie boxes with tongue-in-cheek phrases such as “Wash yo face!” “Quarantine & Chill”, and other COVID-relevant phrases. They also gained lots of attention for their “immuni-tea tea kits”, “self care kits” and “quarantine kits”- where people could gift their friends or family with gift boxes such as: “Miss you, Bes-tea”, and “Party Pooper” (a party-box fit to celebrate a special occasion, virtually. They even promoted other small businesses in Dubai in the hopes to #supportlocal. I was quoted for saying ” This isn’t a Titanic-like Rose and Jack scenario,” says one cafe owner, “we can all fit on the raft and stay afloat if we support one another.”
8. What is next in the Tania’s Teahouse future?
After COVID-19 settles down, we will go back to pursuing franchise inquiries. Before COVID-19 we were planning to open more branches, both locally and internationally, which is so exciting! And new branches will be ‘sister-concepts’ where the theme is slightly altered- stay tuned!
9. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs in the region?
You don’t need to be a shark to survive the treacherous oceans of hospitality. Customer service isn’t easy and the biggest change I had to make in my personality is to not take things to heart, and to accept you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Have confidence and be kind. Not everyone will be kind back, but be strong and brave.
My favourite quote is by Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”