Viral blue-eyed Chaiwala now opens a cafe in London


LONDON – Arshad Khan, the viral blue-eyed chaiwala, has opened a cafe in London’s Ilford Lane. The cafe plans to expand internationally through franchise.

Arshad Khan, the blue-eyed chaiwala (tea seller), who became an overnight sensation in 2016 after a photo of him went viral online, is once again in the headlines with the opening of his cafe in London.

Located on East London’s Ilford Lane, a bustling area mainly inhabited by Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis, the cafe is named Café Chaiwala Arshad Khan and aims to serve the diverse community.

The brand, brought exclusively to London by three Asian brothers – Bahadar Durrani, Nadir Durrani and Akbar Durrani, has traditional South Asian elements, from truck art to hand-decorated Vespa, and a modern yet traditional Dhabba-style interior.

The trio even plans to expand this business across the United Kingdom, Europe, North America, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East through franchises.

After an overwhelming response from customers, Arshad Khan plans to visit London to brew Karak Chai for his fans and, of course, to meet them. He said, “My visit is being planned and I would love to brew tea for my loving fans.

“I have received thousands of requests for London visit. Our first international Chai shop is now open on Ilford Lane and the response is massive already. With the Durrani brothers, we decided to start from Ilford Lane due to the fact that it’s home to a large number of Pakistanis and Indians who love Chai. I will be in London soon in person.

Arshad Khan’s journey to the UK signifies a remarkable transformation. Just seven years back, he was a destitute teenager selling chai on the streets of Islamabad to support his family. However, fate took a turn when a picture of him pouring tea taken by photographer Javeria Ali went viral on social media.

Khan’s striking looks, including his blue eyes and serious demeanour, made him an overnight sensation in Pakistan, India, and beyond. Since then, he has been known as “Chaiwala” and is the inspiration behind the name of the brand.

With the first outlet located on Ilford Lane, Akbar Durrani shared future plans, aiming to establish 50 Café Chaiwala Arshad Khan franchises in the United Kingdom alone.

“Café Chaiwala Arshad Khan has gone international and London being capital of the world is the beginning. We are planning to make this an international brand. We opened the first outlet in London after a lot of market research and business planning. Hundreds of Indian and Pakistani families daily come to the café to drink tea,” Akbar said.

While Akbar Durrani handles international affairs for the family’s diverse business ventures, Nadir Durrani is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Ilford Lane Café Chaiwala.

“We have demonstrated on the café’s front that this is the only authentic Asian Chaiwala in Britain. Lots of people have been coming in and asking about Chaiwala Arshad Khan and whether this is the same person who had shot to fame while pouring Chai in an Islamabad market.”

“We are selling in the UK everything that Chaiwalas in India and Pakistan sells: traditional desi street food, several kinds of teas including Karak Chai, Gurr Chai, Honey Malai Chai, Badami Chai, Kashmiri Chai, Doodh Patti, fresh in-house Chicken Tikka Paratha, fresh Malai Boti Paratha, fresh Afghani Paratha, special breakfast menu with fresh in house made Mumbai Channay Paratha, Desi Omelette, Sujji Halwa, Papri Chaat, Samosa Chaat, Beef Paratha Roll and Malai Boti,” said Nadir.

Although the Durrani brothers had agreed on a contract for international rights with Arshad Khan in 2021, there was a delay in finding the perfect location that aligns with the brand’s image and potential.

“We have been into the food business for over 20 years and have enough expertise in scoping a business and having it at the right place. There is no place in London better than Ilford Lane, to start with, and that has already become a unique point for us as it’s in the centre of an Asian area.”

“Literally, thousands of people will get to see the brand. We are planning to open nearly a dozen cafes across London and work has already begun in this respect,” Akbar said.