How a Near-Death Experience Led Daniel Lewis to Found an Innovative Chai Tea Business

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A near-death experience a few years ago changed Daniel Lewis’ life and put him on the path to entrepreneurship with plans to grow Daniel’s Chai Bar, based inside Bramalea City Centre Shopping Mall in Brampton, Ontario, into a franchisable brand.

It began with the establishment of T By Daniel initially.

“It was born out of what I like to call a tragedy to triumph to story. I spent most of my high school years as an aspiring music artist. Rap, hip hop, and I became a Canadian songwriter. I was exploring all avenues in the music industry. I really believed that’s where my destiny was, until 2009 rolled around. On account of lyrics to one of my songs, I went through a bit of an unfortunate circumstance where I was the victim of a nearly fatal stabbing,” said Lewis.

Daniel's Chai Bar at Bramalea City Centre
Daniel’s Chai Bar at Bramalea City Centre (Image: Jonathan Lewis / Jonathan Productions)
Daniel Lewis

“That was a real eye opener for me in my life and without going into all the details of that incident, it caused me to look at my time here on earth very differently. It really made me ask the question: 

What impact do I have in the world? 

I looked and considered the ways in which everybody had impacted me during this tragic period; the pilot, the paramedics, the doctor, nurses, everyone who stepped in to help me survive that life and death moment. 

They all impacted me and contributed to my life and they were all strangers to me a week prior. “

Daniel's Chai Bar at Bramalea City Centre
Daniel’s Chai Bar at Bramalea City Centre (Image: Jonathan Lewis / Jonathan Productions)

“So I asked myself in the hospital. What impact do you have in life Dan? If this was fatal, what did you do? 

I hated the answer and so I promised myself that when I got out of the hospital I would find some way, some tool or method of impacting people’s lives in a positive way.”

He stopped drinking and smoking and he caught onto tea. A casual walk in the mall one day and a David’s Tea location put him on his current path. He found out tea was healthy for him, good for his body to heal from all the damage caused by the incident.

Daniel’s Chai Bar at Bramalea City Centre (Image: Jonathan Lewis / Jonathan Productions)

“I just became a huge tea addict really, a tea enthusiast. And after spending way too much money on tea one day I said to myself what if that thing I was looking for is tea! What if I start my own tea business and make it built on the foundation of impacting people’s lives in a positive way,” explained Lewis. “And that idea became T By Daniel.”

The brand was established in 2011 as an online company. Very quickly he realized that the brand was not visible enough to the public. So he began to go to events, farmer’s markets, trade shows to just get the name out there. After three years of doing that, the first store was opened with his wife Renata in downtown Brampton. 

In 2018, the brand relocated to the Bramalea City Centre Shopping Mall. After a year, the couple had their second child, and they decided to step back from the front facing aspect of the business and focus on online expansion.

The Royal Encounter with Prince Charles (Image: Daniel Lewis)

They eventually changed the company name to Daniel’s Chai Bar and it is now back at Bramalea City Centre with a brick and mortar location with its recent opening.

“The reason we changed the corporation is that Daniel’s Chai Bar is designed to be a franchisable concept which is very different from T By Daniel,” explained Lewis.

“I’m re-positioning this and re-imagining everything about it – the brand, the look. Everything is made with franchising in mind and so I do see more store locations in the near future, which I’m  already starting to facilitate those conversations. 

“Tea has piggybacked off the coffee industry for many years. But I think as coffee took on a more artisanal look and feel to it; baristas, barista art, and special lattes etc. Tea followed suit and did the same thing. I’m a certified tea master myself now and tea has become an art and as it gets more artistic, chai and chai lattes are in higher demand. Chai is loaded with different flavours and health benefits and it just strikes that good balance between tea and spice, and because of that it’s a hot choice for consumers all over the world.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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