From Pain to Positivi-Tea: Tania Lodi's Journey to Creating Tania's Teahouse in Dubai

From Pain to Positivi-Tea: Tania Lodi's Journey to Creating Tania's Teahouse in Dubai

Meet Tania Lodi, the inspiring founder of Tania's Teahouse. Born in the United States and raised in Dubai, Tania pursued a degree in psychology at the University of Toronto. In this interview, Tania shares her journey from battling an autoimmune disorder to creating a wellness sanctuary in Dubai. Inspired by the health benefits of tea and a passion for mindfulness, she opened her café at 23 to offer a haven for those seeking holistic health solutions. Tania discusses how her personal health challenges influenced the menu, her dedication to inclusive and nutritious options, and the evolution of her brand.

What inspired you to start Tania’s Teahouse? How has your personal health journey influenced the menu?

I was inspired to open Tania's Teahouse because I was suffering from a difficult autoimmune disease. I didn't want to rely on heavy medication, so I turned to holistic health and found refuge in the benefits of teas and inclusive eating, focusing on dairy-free and gluten-free options. Being mindful about what I was putting into my body made me realize I wanted to create a café that catered to people like me, who have dietary restrictions or are battling inflammation and other health ailments. I aimed to provide a safe space and educate people in a fun way about the benefits of plants and herbs that can help them feel better.

How do you distinguish between pseudoscience and legitimate practices in the holistic space to curate a menu that genuinely benefits your clients?

That's a really good question because there is so much information out there that people are trying. Honestly, everything that I've been using coincides with traditional medicine. It's nothing artificially made; it's what our ancestors have been telling us all along. I try and test everything myself, so I'm my own guinea pig for all of our recipes and teas. It's just a matter of putting good nutrients in your body and going back to basics. The minerals you put in, and, yes, basically going back to basics.

How has your mission evolved since Tania's Teahouse first opened?

I mean, I started this at 22 or 23. It was my first job, and I'm still learning every day. It was definitely a challenge to address a variety of health ailments and to adopt and accommodate different dietary restrictions, preferences, and flavor profiles. It has been fun experimenting with different ingredients and flavors, staying on top of market research and food trends, and being open-minded to new ingredients with health benefits. We're committed to being inclusive with what we offer.

Can you describe the main design elements of the new flagship location at Dubai Hills from previous one?

I wanted to create something that felt comfortable and cozy, but also a bit more eclectic and classy than our old branch. As I mentioned, I opened our old branch about five years ago. My taste has changed, I've grown up, and the brand has evolved and grown up as well. I wanted to create a place that felt comforting but also aesthetically pleasing. We use different elements of Scandinavian design, pops of pastels while staying a bit neutral, and incorporate a lot of cozy ceramics and more eclectic elements.

What pushed you to collaborate with Collectus Studio for the new flagship location of Tania’s Teahouse?

Collectus Studio is also a local business, and I love working with other local businesses, especially people who have grown up in Dubai. We clicked immediately, and I felt like he understood the concept. He helped me evolve and elevate the design elements as well. It was honestly like a match made to happen.

Could you tell us more about the specific upgrades and features that differenciate the new location from the old?

First of all, we have a restaurant license instead of a café license. Our space is twice as large, and our kitchen is twice as big, which is great. We now bake all of our bread in-house and have three event spaces, including the tea room we are in right now, two other event rooms, and a larger dining space. We are licensed to serve alcohol and offer signature tea-infused cocktails. We have a new day and night menu, and we're open until late now.

How does Tania’s Teahouse integrate local elements and brands, such as Urban Nest, into its interior design?

Besides working with Collectus Studio, we're collaborating with Urban Nest, the distributor for HK Living and several other Scandinavian brands. They have fitted out most of the tea room we're in right now. We also feature local artists on our frame walls, and many of the accessories and elements in our shadow shelves in the event rooms are local products.

What are the unique health benefits of the ingredients used in the revamped drinks menu, particularly the functional mushrooms?

I love using 'shrooms. We've incorporated a lot of functional mushrooms in our dishes, which are basically adaptogens. Adaptogens increase your resistance to environmental stressors, so they're good for your mind, body, and soul. We have a chicken dish with cordyceps, which helps with energy and focus. Our passionfruit creme brûlée also has mushrooms in it, which helps with relaxation. We have a line of mushroom lattes, each featuring functional mushrooms that provide various health benefits.

Does the addition of mushrooms affect the taste of the coffee and food?

It depends on how much you use. In our drinks, we use just a pinch of the powder, which is all you really need. It doesn't add much taste. Plus, we add ingredients like maca root and a bit of agave. The nut milk itself balances out the taste, so it's like being healthy without even knowing it.

How does Tania’s Teahouse cater to diverse dietary needs and preferences, and what are some examples of inclusive menu options?

Our avocado toast is actually paleo. Instead of using bread, we're using toasted sweet potato. This dish is dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan. If people don't want it to be paleo, we can add bread. We're not completely restricting ourselves to gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free options; we're just providing that option as well. We also offer gluten-free breads and vegan nut milk alternatives.

Can you provide more details about the three distinct event spaces available at the new location and the types of events they are designed to host?

Our tea room is the cozy room we're in right now. It's a bit darker, broodier, and more sophisticated and Scandinavian than the rest of the branch. Our two event spaces are lighter and airier, with options for product placement and little shadow box shelves. We have the Sun Room and the Lunar Room. For both event spaces, we highly encourage people to book us for crafting events. We've hosted manifestation journal-making, sewing, floral arranging, life coaching, and a plethora of different activities and workshops. We're open to hosting anything.

What motivated the creation of the secret Tea Room, and what experience can guests expect there?

I love being unpredictable and constantly pushing myself beyond my comfort zone in interior design and creative endeavors. I enjoy doing things that are out of the box. The reception to the Tea Room has been really positive, and it's been a fun experiment.

Tania's Teahouse - The Tea Room

Does Tania's Teahouse being labeled as 'the most Instagrammable cafe' hinder its core mission from reaching audiences?

I love being Instagrammable, but more importantly, I believe in being Instagrammable and impactful. I utilize the aesthetic appeal of the interiors to enhance your well-being. It should be a place where you feel at home, escape the daily grind, and immerse yourself in an atmosphere where you feel safe and happy. That's where Instagram is impactful—using it to make you feel better rather than just being a frivolous, pretty place with no soul. There will always be people who don't get it, and you can't be everyone's cup of tea. But our loyal fans and customers who understand the brand appreciate that we're not just a pretty cafe. We put a lot of work and effort into the attention to detail to enhance the customer experience and promote well-being. It's not just about the interiors; it's the whole vibe of the space and how our team interacts with customers. We've managed to connect with people on a deeper level.

In Tania’s previous branch, there were signature items that became fan favorites, are they still incorporated in the new menu and has the recipe evolved since?

To be honest, they've stayed the same. These OG recipes have always worked well. Over the last five years, we've tweaked and perfected them, but they have remained our classic fan favorites that people remember from the old branch. To complement those, we've added new items, ensuring we still offer options that are gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.

How do you balance the demands of being so involved in running Tania’s Teahouse with maintaining your personal health and well-being?

It does get overwhelming, but I think that's life. Using my personal health journey to take something awful and try to do good and turn it into something positive is always going to be challenging. I have lupus, which is a difficult autoimmune disease to deal with every day. It's daily pain and discomfort, and this pushes me to take that and do something good with it because it's out of my control. All I can do is try to better myself. My business drives me because it's deeply personal and helps keep me alive. We are looking at expansion and franchising. I want to stay very much involved, but maybe from a different level, where I'm looking at opening other branches and helping with the operations team. I definitely want to stay involved, but hopefully on a bigger scale.

What are some signature dishes on the new menu?

If I'm picking by category, I'd say in our breakfast, our egg bun has been super popular. It's one of my personal favorites. It can be made with gluten-free bread as well. It has scrambled eggs, melted cheese, and sriracha sauce, and is sprinkled with Chips Oman on top, which is really nice. Our Eggs Benedict and Eggs Royale are also very popular; we dye our bread using tea leaves, and they're just very wholesome and nutritious. Surprisingly, our burgers have been really popular. We make the bread and patty in-house, and it's just very fresh and good to eat. For desserts, I would highly recommend our Tiramishroom, which is basically tiramisu shaped like mushrooms. I love mushrooms.

How do you envision the role of Tania’s Teahouse in the community?

While I was in university, I loved going to different cafes and working from there. When I first started Tania’s Teahouse, there weren't many options for people to go alone to a cafe with their laptop and books. So I wanted it to be very inclusive for people who just wanted to come alone and read a book. We've had people come and sketch or listen to a Zoom call or something. So we've made sure we have plug points everywhere, really good Wi-Fi, and just a cozy space to treat like your own living room.

What is the key message you would like your customers, fellow entrepreneurs, or people suffering from similar ailments to take away from the mission of Tania’s Teahouse?

I think the biggest takeaway message I would like my customers to feel is that everyone's success metric should be a healthy nervous system. Because we focus on inclusive offerings and the use of plants, adaptogens, and herbs to enhance your well-being in a sustainable way, we often forget this. We get distracted and overstimulated by modern society and don't focus on our body's needs. Starting with a healthy nervous system and then looking at other success metrics is important for everyone.

Incorporating this can be challenging, but it's also why there is such a rise in autoimmune diseases, anxiety, and depression. I want to remind the community that it is doable and sustainable. Adding a pinch of cordyceps mushroom powder to your coffee, where you don't even taste it, can help your brain concentration for the rest of your day. Adding ashwagandha root or reducing gluten if it makes you feel bad can make a difference. Introducing this kind of lifestyle in a way that is not intimidating but sustainable and easy is something we strive to show.

Why did you choose the UAE as the starting point for your business, given that autoimmune diseases are less recognized here and form a distinct pocket community compared to the rest of the world?

I think there's definitely a growing awareness in the UAE when it comes to autoimmune diseases and how to combat them. It's really nice to see more and more people being aware of what they're eating, being mindful of inflammation, and using plants and herbs as adaptogens. I definitely think there's growing awareness, and we're here to push that awareness to the next level.

How do you actively promote female empowerment and self-care within your café and the wider community?

We work with many different female organizations like Female Fusion and Female Business Network. I think we're known in the community as a place to host events, workshops, catering, and corporate events and gifting as well. In the last five years, we have managed to establish ourselves as a place to do events and work with the community.

What future plans do you have for Tania’s Teahouse?

We are actually exploring some exciting franchising opportunities abroad. We hope to open internationally and create spin-off brands and sister concepts. Keep your eyes peeled!

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Maryam Pervez

Written by Maryam Pervez

Maryam is the Managing Editor at HiDubai, bringing 8+ years of expertise in marketing, social media, and content development. She holds a Master's degree in Marketing Comms from Middlesex University.
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