Tea Lounge Franchise Opens in Kuwait

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – A dozen years thriving in a New York City neighborhood affirms Jonathan Spiel’s vision that a local tea and coffee shop helps establish a sense of community.

WTN140303_ART_KuwaitCafe_InteriorKuwait entrepreneur Mohammed Al-Arbash was so impressed he asked if Spiel could export his concept.  Tea Lounge accepted the challenge and opened an 800 sq. ft. franchise location in a suburban strip mall.

The shop offers 65 loose leaf teas and has an automatic espresso machine to pull shots. Teas are steeped by staff to insure proper preparation and served on a tray in a pot and cups with milk and honey. Patrons are encouraged to relax and enjoy their conversation.

Traditional tea lounges like the English Tea Lounge at the Sheraton are located in hotels including the J.W. Marriott Hotel and the Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel. The setting is more formal and more expensive.


Mohammed Al-Arbash and Jonathan Spiel

Al-Arbash, who heads the Al-Arbash Group, wanted a location that appeals to local residents with a mix of authentic coffee and tea drinks popular in America. A seasoned entrepreneur, with experience operating upscale retail locations, Al-Arbash traveled to New York to explore the coffee shop scene. He approached Spiel and they collaborated in creating a venue with a distinctly New York vibe that retains the ambiance of the modern Middle East.

Spiel recently returned from training the baristas and waitstaff. The shop opened February 11.

“The baristas were fantastic. They are very into coffee and coffee culture. The employees were great, all of them were hard workers. There was a lot of work, everything over there was started from scratch,” he said.

WTN140303_ART_KuwaitCafe_JonathanwithdrinksTea Lounge provided the branding and tea ware, drink recipes like Turkish Mocha and Shot Chocolate (hot chocolate with a shot of espresso) and its most popular tea blends including Fresh Chai Latte, Tea Sparkler (iced tea with carbonation), handmade flower teas. Prices are a bit more expensive in Kuwait close to triple the price in the U.S., said Spiel.

The shop features six organic and Fair Trade Certified micro-roast coffees. These include a house blend & decaf, espresso and decaf along with a Turkish roast and hazelnut.

The lounge serves traditional foods including a variety of sandwiches, salads and coffee shop favorites like cheesecake.

Al-Arbash paid Tea Lounge a $25,000 license fee, plus $30,000 as the master franchiser in Kuait and agreed to 5% royalty on sales along with a 1% brand development fee. Franchisees qualify with a minimum net worth of $400,000 with $100,000 in available capital. Opening a shop costs between $150,000 and $350,000 depending on size and location.

Franchising is hard to get into, said Spiel, but this experience has led him to consider expansion into other Middle East countries like Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi and Jordan.

World Tea News profiled Tea Lounge in 2012.

Learn more: Tea Lounge

Profiles / New Products, Tea Retailer Profiles
Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.