Cup of joy: Pakistani tea vendor brews recipe for success with UK cafe

Cup of joy: Pakistani tea vendor brews recipe for success with UK cafe
Arshad Khan, the world’s most famous chai wala, speaks to Arab News at his Cafe Chaiwala Rooftop in Islamabad on Oct. 8, 2020. (AN photo)
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Updated 22 May 2021

Cup of joy: Pakistani tea vendor brews recipe for success with UK cafe

Cup of joy: Pakistani tea vendor brews recipe for success with UK cafe
  • Blue-eyed ‘chai wala’ became an internet sensation after photo went viral, resulting in modeling contracts

RAWALPINDI: A picture may be worth a thousand words and, in the case of Arshad Khan, a lot of money, too.

Khan, an ethnic Pashtun who works as a tea vendor — popularly known as a “chai wala” — became Pakistan’s hottest celebrity in 2016 when a photographer, Javeria Ali, took a shot of him for Instagram as he worked at his tea-stall.

The image was shared tens of thousands of times on social media, turning its handsome, blue-eyed subject into an overnight sensation.

Fame brought Khan several modeling contracts and, last year, he launched a chain of restaurants called Cafe Chaiwala Rooftop, which he is now taking to the UK with plans to open a cafe there soon.

“We are very excited because no other Pakistani brand has launched a franchise like this — well, maybe there is, but we don’t know about them,” Khan told Arab News on Friday.




Arshad Khan is captured making tea at a local stall in Islamabad in this photo from October 2016. The picture went viral and shot him to international fame. (Courtesy social media)

“We have worked very hard and are focused on what is to come.”

Khan did not specify a launch date, but said he hopes to expand to 10 locations across the UK.

Khan’s first cafe in Pakistan, launched in October 2020 in Islamabad, had seen a “tremendous response,” he said, and he now has two more branches, in Islamabad and the hill station city of Murree, where local tourists gather in the summer months for respite from the seasonal heat.

Kazim Hasan, Khan’s partner and mentor, told Arab News the duo had signed a “master franchise agreement” for the UK, with two seasoned franchise operators, Nadir Khan Durrani and Yawer Akbar Durrani, laying the foundations for Cafa Chaiwala to become a global brand.

The Durranis already have several chain restaurants to their name.

“We had great conversations about what we were looking to achieve, and they have great know-how,” Hasan said about the partnership.

“They haven’t worked in the UK before, but we believe in our goal and are working on this together.”