While scrolling through Instagram one day, I came across Tanah Aina Cafe, a Shah Alam-based eatery serving high tea.
But instead of the usual English scones and finger sandwiches, customers can find mini bowls of local snacks being offered. Called the Congkak Set, it includes food like curry puffs, sambal popiah goreng, bubur hitam, and cucur udang.
This isn’t entirely unique as there are some local spots offering similar high tea sets, such as Ahh-Yum by Kampung Kravers.
Not long after that, I came across another brand called Farhana’s Oven, a home baking business that’s been around since 1989, making it 34 years old.
And somehow, through a few twists and turns, I found out that the two are founded by the same boss—Puan Sri Sharifah Sabrina. Or just Sabrina for short.
Curios to learn about her entrepreneurial journey, I reached out to the brand.
She had a lifelong love for baking
I managed to get in touch with Farhana, Sabrina’s daughter and the current manager of the two brands. That’s how I learnt that although her mum’s entrepreneurial journey only began in the late ‘80s, her baking life started at the young age of seven.
Back then, she would tweak any recipes she could find and try to add her own spin to it. Finding a particular interest in cookies and cakes, she stuck with it. This hobby was further developed the more she baked for family and friends.
Eventually, Sabrina decided to turn it into a business named after one of her children.
Explaining fondly, Farhana said, “She named it after me because every time she bakes, I will always help her.”
While growing up, Farhana shared that her mum would instill the love of baking in her and her other four siblings. Having frequently observed her busy at work in the kitchen, they eventually caught on to the skill. So baking became a bonding activity for the family.
But as the years passed, her children slowly began leaving the nest. Even Farhana left to work in Australia.
That is, until 2014 when her mum was finally ready to achieve a lifelong dream of hers.
A familiar hand to achieve a childhood dream
Having a good foothold in the baking field, Sabrina decided to expand her repertoire. It turns out that aside from baking, the mum of five had always wanted to own her own cafe-slash-bakery. And being the doting daughter, Farhana chose to return to Malaysia and help make it come true.
Hence, in 2015, Tanah Aina Cafe by Farhana’s Oven opened its doors to customers.
The name “Tanah Aina” actually comes from Sabrina’s other established business, an eco-resort organisation also called Tanah Aina, which was established in 2010. According to their website, this business spans about 10 locations and includes a mix of stays, F&B, and even a fitness centre.
This Tanah Aina cafe is one such business. Finding no reason to complicate matters, the mother-daughter duo set up their first eatery in Shah Alam, near the mum’s home.
“It’s easier to go [to the cafe] and go back home,” Farhana quipped. “[She] found an abandoned building and saw potential in it.”
Fulfilling her desire to offer more than just treats, Sabrina curated the menu to feature savoury Malaysian dishes. For example, the eatery serves local favourites like fried kuey teow, laksa, lamb briyani, and its popular Nasi Rendang Aceh.
Preserving her life’s work through recipes
Despite featuring an extensive menu, Farhana stated that all of them are made using her mum’s recipes. She also assured us that the cafe doesn’t use preservatives in any of the food.
In the multi-storey building, customers can also request to have their meals in private dining rooms or multipurpose halls. So if you have a birthday party or intimate corporate dinner event, this could be a spot to consider.
Staying true to its origins, the cafe also features Farhana’s Oven’s baked goods too.
Some of their bestsellers are festive snacks including Afghan cookies, ghee butter cookies, and Semolina Arabia cookies. All of which are neatly packed in Farhana Oven’s signature orange boxes or tin jars.
On the way to building a family legacy
A few months ago in July 2023, the family business expanded again in the form of Tanah Aina Cafe’s second outlet.
Managed personally by Sabrina, the new spot is located in Penang’s bustling Georgetown. This is quite an ambitious move as Penang is known to be a local foodie haven, but it seems that the family team is confident in their 34 years of F&B experience.
A key reason for this being that the founder is still actively involved in her businesses, checking on their outlets every week.
But it seems that Sabrina is far from wanting to take a rest. Farhana confided that her family aims to continue growing Farhana’s Oven and Tanah Aina Cafe.
So we might be seeing more Tanah Aina Cafe outlets around Malaysia. Or maybe she’ll innovate more unique F&B offerings like the Congkak Set in the future.
Featured Image Credit: Tanah Aina Cafe