This is the first venture into tea restaurant business, for Unilever, although two years ago it bought an Australian tea chain T2, which is a store-only format.
Taj Mahal made its Twitter debut on Independence Day, when Hindustan Unilever's (HUL) tea brand by the same name made its tea restaurant debut by quietly opening Taj Mahal Tea House in Bandra.
The 3,500 square feet outlet serves over 40 types of tea along with food specially designed by French chef Gregory Bazire to complement the teas in exquisite crockery.
"We have developed the market for tea in the country and we should also be the pioneers for bringing out the experience and romance of tea," said Geetu Verma, HUL's executive director for foods and refreshments.
The producer of Brooke Bond and Lipton tea also plans to use consumer insights from the restaurant to develop new products or blends for its premium tea brand Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal Tea House serves tea blend with spices and natural ingredients such as Kashmiri Saffron tea, Royal Jaipuri tea, Malabari tea and Parsi Mint tea. It has an all-day tea-pairing menu that includes Parsi Brun Maska with homemade jam, Arabic falafel chaat and muffins and biscuits baked in-house besides a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu.
This is its first venture into tea restaurant business, for Unilever, although two years ago it bought an Australian tea chain T2, which is a store-only format.
HUL is the market leader in India's Rs 10,000-crore tea market. HUL does not operate in the mass end of the segment and is betting on premiumisation.
"Our strate- gy on tea is all about upgrading consumers and at the top end it's about discovery of new formats and new ways to experience the product," said Verma.
Nevertheless, HUL wants Taj Mahal Tea House to be seen more as a destination for all tea lovers. It hopes that walk-ins at the restaurant translate into higher sales for its 49-year-old premium tea brand outside the lounge.
HUL has always tried to create finest imagery around the Taj Mahal brand by getting classical music maestros such as Ustad Zakir Hussain, Niladri Kumar and Rahul Sharma, to promote the brand. Taj Mahal Tea House continues this tradition.