Malaysian plant cafe owner aims to be a positive influence in community


Jan builds a terrarium while accompanied by Jenny One Eye. Photos: Jan Zainal

Jan Zainal doesn’t consider herself an influencer in the typical sort of way, but rather, a mentor.

“Being an influencer usually means influencing people to buy a product, but mentoring is a two-way thing – we share experiences and hopefully, what we’ve gone through is of use and can help others,” she says.

The youthful-looking 52-year-old Jan runs Taman Hati, a plant cafe in Petaling Jaya, that is also home to three rescued cats.

While she has nothing against being known as a “catfluencer” and “plantfluencer”, Jan says what is closest to her heart is imparting knowledge and experience to those around her, especially her young team.

“That is the type of influencing that I prefer,” says Jan, who has worked as an IT consultant for 20 years and in the oil and gas industry for six years.

Jan (centre) with her family, (clockwise from top) husband Sany Zainuddin, brother-in-law Azmi Zainuddin, sister-in-law Nurain Abdullah, son Hady Sany, and mother Datin Siti Mujib. Photo: Jan ZainalJan (centre) with her family, (clockwise from top) husband Sany Zainuddin, brother-in-law Azmi Zainuddin, sister-in-law Nurain Abdullah, son Hady Sany, and mother Datin Siti Mujib. Photo: Jan Zainal“My team (members), who are like my family at work, are all young (their ages range from 22 to 30) and energetic, committed to learning, and they all come from different backgrounds – dance, theatre, singing, etc,” says Jan, who is affectionately known as “Mama Jan” to her team because they see her as a mother figure.

Jan adds that she believes in having a chill learning environment.


“We’ve researched and developed new items for our cafe menu together where everyone chips in to produce the final product.

“Although none of us is from a purely F&B background, we have that chemistry to explore and learn together,” she says.

“Many of them also didn’t have a background in plants but their interest grew and they learnt along the way,” she adds.

“People are brought together – whether coincidentally or not, for a reason – and I strongly believe they came into my life to enrich it, and for me to enrich theirs, and it’s my privilege to nurture them,” Jan explains.

“I’m satisfied that we’ve learnt from each other about the latest trends, social media marketing, and keeping up-to-date with viral stuff,” she says.

Jan adds that she has evolved her social media (@tamanhatijz) from being a “one-woman-show” to a team effort as she now allows her colleagues to handle the posts.

“You can tell who uploaded each post through the music they use.

“For the boys, it’s usually hip-hop. One of the girls is really good at IG Reels – she selects really catchy, on-point songs, and the transition between pictures and music is perfect and seamless,” she says, adding with a laugh that if done by herself, the pictures or videos might not match the music.

Animal lover

Jan Zainal with her three rescued cats who are a vital part of her plant cafe. Photo: Jan ZainalJan Zainal with her three rescued cats who are a vital part of her plant cafe. Photo: Jan ZainalJan has eight cats, all rescues except for one, and they are featured on her Instagram account @CatsOfTamanHati.


“I’ve always fostered cats. I would rescue them and keep them at home for up to two weeks, and try to get them adopted into a good home by then,” she says.

“I love all kinds of animals and there have always been cats at my parents’ home, as well as other types of pets,” she says.

“My father was working in foreign affairs and when we lived at the old government quarters at Bukit Travers (KL), we had a huge garden with all sorts of pets – chickens, cats, hamsters and birds (cockatiel, parakeet and budgies). And when we were in Jakarta (Indonesia) where he was posted, we also had fish, birds, tortoise and cats,” she recalls.

Jan reveals that her love for plants was influenced by her mother and grandmother.

“All the women in my family, especially on my mum’s side, love plants. My mum had orchids as well as edible plants in her garden,” she says.

(from left) Jan, Blue Bolt (on lap), husband Sany, mother Datin Siti and son Hady. Photo: Jan Zainal(from left) Jan, Blue Bolt (on lap), husband Sany, mother Datin Siti and son Hady. Photo: Jan Zainal

Jan got her first plant at the age of 18 while in university in England.

“I was into cactus and kept it throughout my university life there, then brought it home to Malaysia,” says Jan, whose favourite plant is the Monstera Thai constellation.

Giving back

Jan runs her business sustainably with the objective of giving back to the community.

“I do a lot of community projects.

“We have a preloved corner, as well as a monthly ‘weekend market’ where people can bring good condition preloved items to sell.

“This is to promote a sustainable lifestyle, encourage reuse and lessen wastage,” she says.

Jan also supports two charities: Nourish Malaysia’s Black 2 School campaign to raise funds for underprivileged children, and Furry Kids Safe Haven, an animal shelter.

“The proceeds from the sale of homemade snacks go to these charities,” she says.

Jan builds a terrarium while Jenny One Eye looks on. Photo: Jan ZainalJan builds a terrarium while Jenny One Eye looks on. Photo: Jan ZainalHer cafe is also a community space for local artisans who don’t have a physical shop to display their wares.

“There’s no fee for displaying or marketing but I just take a small commission on sales,” she says.

Jan also has plant swap events where plant enthusiasts can come together and swap plants to expand their collection and perhaps get something they don’t have free of charge.

There are also terrarium-building workshops for both small groups and corporate events.

“These help build a strong and healthy community spirit in the neighbourhood, which matches my family vibe,” concludes Jan.


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