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Wed 1 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Tea total

Sat outside a café in Marrakech, Tariq Al-Aruri was inspired to create a new brand of teabags for the region. Over one year later, he has 25 different varieties, and is looking to five-star hotels and spas to distribute his brand to a new generation of tea lovers

|~||~||~|As more restaurants are beginning to pick up the teapot and brew a perfect cuppa, the demand for speciality teas has grown. Because of this, Tariq Al-Aruri decided to target the market and produce a high-end range of tea bags for five-star hotels and spas.

His company, Sava, formed in January last year, and since then he has launched a range of speciality teas under the brand name Tchaba. Targeting the Middle East and North Africa market, Al-Aruri is hoping to install his brand in leading hotels, as well as eventually opening up a tea boutique to allow customers to purchase the speciality teas direct.

“We are mainly targeting hotels and spas as we are not producing our teas en-masse, so distributing in supermarkets is definitely out of the question,” comments Al-Aruri, managing partner, Sava.

The idea behind the brand came to Al-Aruri whilst on a trip to Marrakech, Morocco, where he noticed more people were visiting teashops and shunning traditional coffee in favour of tea. After numerous meetings with a local businessman in Morocco — who specialised in packaging herbs for beauty companies — he decided to target the tea market, but aim at more exclusive and individual teas.

Tchaba provides 25 different blends of tea in hand-stitched teabags, as well as 110 signature blends in loose tea. However, what Al-Aruri claims makes Tchaba stand out from other companies is that it uses full tea leaves, as well as fresh ingredients like berries, saffron and cardamom, in order to provide a fresher and fuller flavour.

Selected by specialist tea masters in Germany and France, the tea leaves and ingredients used are specifically chosen from tea estates in China, Sri Lanka, Japan and India, countries that provide a number of different leaves and flavours. However, as full tealeaves are used, Al-Aruri has to ensure that only the finest leaves are selected.

“One of our more exclusive brands is the white tea, like Silver Tips tea and Pai Mu Tan. Silver Tips, for example, uses the smallest tealeaves and there are only three days when they can be picked. If you miss those three days then you have to wait another six months, so it is a very delicate process,” says Al-Aruri.

The company currently has three ranges of bagged teas available. Its largest range, the Tchaba Blend, offers a blend of tea, spices and fruits, like Emirates Spice. Specifically created for the local market and tourists, Emirates Spice consists of a blend of black tea, saffron, cardamom and honey. There is also Fruit Passion and Jasmine Haze, which is green tea and passion fruit and green tea and jasmine blossom, respectively.

Tchaba’s other two ranges include Tchaba herbal, which contains no tea and just fruits and herbs, and Tchaba vintage, which only contains tea.

“All of our products are completely natural and have no additives or preservatives, so a lot of spas are interested in our teas. Also, people are becoming more aware of what goes into what they eat or drink so our products are being well received in the market because of this,” adds Al-Aruri.

In order to promote the natural aspect of the tea, Al-Aruri added that when it comes to packaging, no glue or staples are used to seal the tea bags. As such, the tea bags, which are made from corn leaf, are stitched either by hand, or by individual sewing machines in the company’s factory in Marrakech, which employs 600 staff.

Additionally, the packaging to seal the tea bags has been carefully created. In order to maintain the freshness of the bags — as well as hold in the flavour — the packaging has three layers: paper for the outer layer, plastic in the middle and aluminium on the inside.

“Because of the sealed packaging the tea bags are not affected by outside factors, like humidity or high temperatures. Also, all of our teas have a three-year shelf life so we had to be able to create packaging that would guarantee freshness for this length of time,” comments Al-Aruri.

In order to target the regional market, Al-Aruri worked closely with tea masters to create the right tea combinations and range of blends that suited the Middle East palate. As such, the company created local blends like Emirates Spice, Zaatar Digest and Moroccan Nights, which consist of green tea and mint.

Al-Aruri also spent time with regional hotels to get their feedback on the different blends, and what would work best in different outlets. As a number of hotels do not have any signature blends, and use companies like Twinings or Lipton to provide tea, he is hoping to enter the market by providing the tea under the Tchaba brand, or under the hotel’s name.

“This region is a fresh market for teas of this kind, but the feedback I have had is really positive, people are becoming more aware of what is on offer, and that custom made teas and personalised teas are a very real possibility,” Al-Aruri comments.||**||

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