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Set in the shady courtyard of a former traditional wind tower house in the historic Al Fahidi district of Bur Dubai is a hidden gem that holds a traditional charm few places in Dubai can match.
Currently known as The Arabian Tea House Café, it was established in 1997 by Ali Mohammad Al Rais, Executive Director, Alrais Enterprises. He wanted to offer people a peaceful place with a traditional Arabian ambience where they could eat, drink, chat and relax.
The rustic luxury décor of white lace curtains, brightly-embroidered Arabian flowers on plump cushions, white wicker chairs and blue wooden benches were carefully chosen by the owner to represent Arabian culture. The place was renamed Basta Art Café in 2002 and in 2012 became the Arabian Tea House Café.
“When the name changed, we lost a little bit of business as no one knew it as Arabian Tea House,” says Jameer Thadikkal Moiou, Operations Manager, Alrais Enterprises. “That was in 2012 when we opened more Arabian Tea House branches in Tecom and last year at Al Ghazal Mall.”
Although the new outlets are indoors, they retain the same décor and ambience. “The owner wants to ensure the local Arabian theme is kept in the current outlets and any subsequent ones,” says Moiou. “Sometimes people pop into our branches just to take pictures.”
The multicultural menu at Al Fahidi extends to sandwiches, salads, smoothies and traditional Arabian sweets such as lakmeyak, as well as childrens’ options.
A favourite for breakfast is the Arabic breakfast tray with omelette, egg, halloumi cheese, olives, yoghurt and jam and Arabic bread for Dh60, says Mohammad Abdo Akash, Operations Manager at the Al Fahidi outlet.
“Many Arabs like to come here for breakfast as we serve dishes with six or so different items,” he says. About 75 per cent of visitors are tourists, as the café works on a commission basis with tour operators. Typical breakfast fare for them would be scrambled egg and baked tomatoes for Dh45, he says.
But it’s the freshly squeezed lime and mint juice that has customers talking and journalists and bloggers raving. South African tourist Peta Hanly says, “This is refreshment epitomised.”
“It’s such a relaxing spot and I love the fact that it is in this slick city with incredibly modern architecture. It’s sort of incongruous with its cottagey quirky décor, and when you hear birds chirping above in the huge leafy tree as you drink coffee, it brings you back to reality,” she adds.
The main focus of the Arabian Tea House is, of course, its tea. There is a loose black tea, green tea, white tea plus blooming tea, rooibos tea and chai, as well as fruit and herbal tea. The aim is apparently to combine the medicinal qualities of tea from the east with the taste buds of the west.
Akash says, “We have more than 200 different teas from Australia, Canada, China and the Czech Republic. We used to have tea from India and Sri Lanka but now we are focused on high-end brands only.
“We are the official distributor of the blooming teas from an Australian tea company called Tea Blossoms, which has created its own wide range—it is a very successful brand here.”
“We have been approached by a lot of franchises so very soon we will have more outlets using the same concept. Even people from Qatar are asking for the franchise so we are working on that now,” he adds.
Source: Cheryl Robertson, Features Writer, Property Weekly