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Raj’s cup o’ tea

Green Bananas Media

Raj’s cup o’ tea

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A tea shop in Barbados is such a novel idea. It is something you would expect to find in the English countryside where it is served with farm fresh cream, two sugars and some tarts.
For businessman Raj Thani, being able to sell more than 100 flavours of teas to Barbadians and tourists six days a week is a passion.
The decision to go ahead and open Novel Teas teashop and restaurant on the South Coast came during a trip to the United States.
Now five years on it is steeped in the knowledge that God has played a major role in guiding the idea into a place where exotic, natural, and healthy flavours exist and furthermore into the passion Thani has to serve and educate customers about the benefits of tea.
“[Novel Teas] was a business idea that me and my wife [Rebecca] were playing around with. We were just looking for something else to do. We thought about it and said ‘what about a tea shop’ and [agreed] that we would keep that in mind.
“Then we had the opportunity to attend a tea expo in Atlanta, Georgia. We went to that and fell in love with teas, the whole industry and what it had to offer,” he told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.
“We came back and soon after we got an opportunity to rent the spot at Harts Gap [in 2009], and once that came we said ‘Let’s go for it’ and we did. It was a business idea at first but now I can tell you it’s a passion. I’m even trying to get certified in teas as a tea master,” Thani said.
Despite the growth in the sale of coffee and coffee-based drinks, he and his wife who looks after the marketing and prepares the food, decided to stick with the healthier option.
“Tea has a lot to offer. [The name] is something novel, people don’t know there are so many teas and even those who do, they can’t get it here in Barbados so we decided to go with it,” he explained.
Relocating from Harts Gap after two and a half years and opening at another Christ Church location in Coconut Walk with a significantly reduced staff  (he now has two employees) and a smaller, different menu, has brought some changes.
“The change from there to here was more than just business, it was very personal too. Just before we closed that location I gave my life to Christ and my whole being transcended with that.
“I thought our new tag line – transcend the ordinary – was very fitting. It resonated with me and I think that’s the reason for our success right now. Giving God first place, giving Him the glory and the honour and that’s how we do our business, always.
“That’s where we get our success from …,” Thani said.
If there was any doubt that the small businessman knows all about the teas that he sell; ask him about the bubbles he puts in the teas and smoothies, Genmaicha, smoked black tea, silver needle, the hibiscus pomegranate green tea, or even the Lover’s Leap estate tea which is filled with intrigue and beg for the story to be told.
The former Bridgetown jeweller disclosed that his business is performing better now not only because his operating costs are fewer but due to the fact that more people are buying the teas which he sources from suppliers in the US and Canada, who get them directly from their plantations.
“People are starting to realise the benefits of tea, which is something we educate our customers about. They’re realising this is something they should have in their lives.
“Tea is such a wonderful beverage, you should just sit down and relax and enjoy; take the stress off,” he said.
So what are his plans for the future?
“We’re looking to blend our own teas soon. I haven’t put a deadline on it. Human resources is one thing we have to look at. …we will need a manager for the shop, warehousing space. …I’m hoping within the next year or so to start blending our teas, having our tea classes and distributing and supplying the hotels and restaurants,” the businessman said optimistically.