Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Offers a Different Coffee Experience

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's Chai Tea Latte

Capital Cooking Contributor

It been just over two months that the Washington Hilton imported a California coffee staple: The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. The chain is popular with Californians and noted for celebrity sightings. And there's a reason for it. The drinks are good. Quite good, in fact.

Pastry counter at D.C.'s only location
The Coffee Bean has come a long way from its first store in Brentwood, California. Stores can be found overseas. Craving a signature blended drink in Singapore? They're there. Korea? Iraq? Saudi Arabia? You can find them there, too. The brand is now franchise-only, each with the option of being Kosher, and the company approves new stores on a very select basis. It wasn't The Coffee Bean that chose to service the District via the Washington Hilton; it was the Hilton that was looking for something different, and they found it in The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. The singular D.C. location is the first ever store, internationally, inside of a hotel, and maybe that's a good thing. The hotel is open every day, and so is the coffee shop. Find your way there from 5:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., and someone will be there to take your order.

At The Coffee Bean, it's all about quality. Fruit is hand picked and separated before a selection process that picks out the best batches. All coffee beans are then roasted by Master Roaster Jesse Martinez, who consistently checks the roasting process. The difference between perfectly roasted and burnt is merely seconds. And the burnt batches? They're thrown out. If it's not meeting standards, says store manager Bob Groves, the consumer isn't going to get it.

But the brand is much more than good coffee. There is also tea, and a lot of it. Everything served is made using loose leaf, which heightens the quality. Tea lattes are made from real tea, including chai. All locations use vanilla and chocolate powders in their drinks instead of flavored syrups. The result is something a little less sugary and much more creamy.

Make your way through the menu and you'll find Ice Blended Drinks, in many varieties: coffee, tea and fruit based. Coffee blends can be upgraded to have more coffee, but if you really want a special drink, make it an Ultimate and they'll put in chocolate covered coffee beans.

Like many coffee shops, there's also breakfast and lunch options. If you're hungry, you can sleep soundly knowing that all food at the location is made fresh every day, exclusively for The Coffee Bean. Pastries are baked each morning and throughout the day to refresh, from scones to croissants to indulgent chocolate s'mores cookies and individual loaves of monkey bread. Guests in need of breakfast or lunch sandwiches, salads and wraps can find those as well, also made in the kitchen every day.

Settle into one of the store's designer Eames chairs and unwind
And if you're looking for somewhere to stay and get some work done, this location encourages you to do so. Four large flat screens adorn one wall, with the option of a four-program set up or one, extra-large picture. Designer Eames lounge chairs--no knockoffs here--are situated to invite you to stay a few moments longer. Grab a drink, plug into the free wifi, and relax. If you're in a rush, five-minute parking spots are available in front of the hotel entrance for a run-in, run-out operation.

No matter what you're situation or craving, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf has you covered. They became popular in California for a reason, and now the District has one of its own.

photographs by Samantha Grieder

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