Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge


India is anything but homogenous. The nation’s billion plus citizens enjoy greatly different cuisines, honor the customs and traditions of eight major religions and populate a vast land that stretches from the highest of the Himalayas to dense sea level jungle along the Arabian Sea.

What they do have in common is tea.

Wagh Bakri Tea Group is the nation’s third best-selling brand due in large part to its ability to adapt. The company is headquartered in Western India (Gujarat) but its reputation as an international brand and dominate market share extends to more than nine Indian states.

The company was founded in 1892 and opened its first retail shop in Ahmedabad in 1919.  The 120-year-old firm is now the fastest growing tea blender and packer in India. In 1925 Wagh Bakri (loosely translated it means tiger and goat) became one of the first to brand its teas. Its Good Morning tea, first released in 1944 remains their best seller and a national favorite. In 1980 Wagh Bakri, recognizing the need for packaged teas, began offering quality blends sold globally.

The company opened its first modern tea lounge in 2008 in Mumbai, a vibrant city of 20 million and India’s largest urban center.  In 2011 a second shop opened in New Delhi, the capital of India.

Wagh Bakri describes their retail concept as “re-introducing tea as a trendy social beverage” that is offered in urban contemporary space for out-of-home enjoyment and as an alternative to road side tea stalls. The lounge offers a distinctive experience in a premium ambience.

The Mumbai Tea Lounge is situated at very prime location in Ville Parle East. The 1100 sq. ft. shop seats 50 and is exclusively vegetarian.thp_waghbakri_loungemumbai_9619300pxl

The staff generously offered samples during my visit and described operations at the lounge which opens to a breakfast crowd at 8 a.m. and is busy until 11 p.m. closing.

This Tea Lounge serves about 1,500 cups per day. Foodservice sales are the most important revenue generator but packaged tea accounts for 40% of the daily till.

“Our regional foods are well accepted by people. Here we sell healthy home-style dishes,” said  Kartikeya Bhatnagar, Manager of Retail Operations. Examples include:

* Brun Maska: “Hard roll bread with loads of butter in between.”

* Dhokla: “A specialty Gujrati snacks, prepared with gram flour. Mainly a breakfast prep, but enjoyed all day”

* Patra: Again a Gujrati delicacy, a steamed preparation with layers of specialty leaves and batter. Hence the name Patra (leaf in Hindi is called “Patta”)”

* Mawa Cake: “Indian version of muffin”

* Khari: “A flaky pastry with sweetness and salt in balanced proportion. An ideal biscuit to be enjoyed with Tea.”

Delicious and 100% vegetarian snacks set Wagh Bakri apart from the usual coffee shop offerings such as croissants, sandwiches, muffins and tarts, Bhatnagar explains.

The tea lounge is a perfect example of how India is re-introducing the taste and benefits of premium tea to a population that consumes more tea than any country on earth.

Parag Desai
Parag Desai

“Retailers benefit from first mover advantage in tea,” said Parag Desai, an Executive Director at Wagh Bakri and 4th generation entrepreneur. Desai graduated from Long Island University (NY) with a masters’ degree in business administration. His specialty is sales and marketing and “his visionary zeal” is behind the company’s online ventures and brand extensions.

His contemporary Paras Desai, also an Executive Director is another 4th generation heir. He is an expert buyer with a keen taste and high standards of quality for tea honed daily. Paras has a diploma in management studies from Ohio State University and is responsible for purchasing tea, oversees daily tastings and corporate finance of the group.

“India is experiencing a large increase in the consumer class, rising income and purchasing power and a change in consumer mindset,” Parag Desai told delegates during a presentation at the India International Tea Convention held in Goa.

“The growing population and rising disposable income is fueling demand. Innovation like flavored teas are driving growth but it is important to remain authentic,” he said.

Perfect TeaBhatnagar, 31, proudly points to the firm’s “Perfect Tea” blend as an example. “Water quality varies throughout India and we wanted to make the tea perfect for every region,” he says. To do so the company alters its blend in each region but not its packaging. The tea sells for Rs 175 ($3 a box).

The Mumbai Tea Lounge offers a wide range of tea (32 varieties), giving consumers an opportunity to get acquainted with brisk Assam tea, a healthy organic tea, a relaxing green tea, an uplifting Darjeeling tea and refreshing flavoured teas.

Tea lounges are uncommon in India where most tea is purchased from roadside vendors at nominal cost. To attract a more upscale crowd the store makes use of coupons, branded carry bags, in-store sampling and holiday discounts. During my visit the store was nicely decorated to celebrate Diwali, a five-day festival of lights.

The company is currently exporting tea to North America, The Middle East, UK and Europe, Asia and Pacific countries. The intent is “to bring the best taste of Indian tea in the homes across the world.”

In addition to the Mumbai and Delhi Tea Lounges, the company plans to expand their network of lounges across the India to offer everyone the convenience of tasting its tea blends.

Source: Wagh Bakri Tea Group

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.