In Los Angeles, you can barely throw a stone without hitting a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (and probably a celeb or two). This year, stars who make the trek from Los Angeles to D.C. for April’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner can find that comfort of home in the lobby of the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue.
The international chain that has long been a staple in Southern California celebrated the opening of its first D.C. location Tuesday morning with free drink samples and pastries.
“We’re so excited to have this opportunity,” said Bob Kaufman, VP of business development.
The chain, which began in Southern California in 1963, has locations in Korea, Singapore, Hawaii, India and many other countries. But only within the past two years has it expanded to the East Coast, opening stores in Florida and New York. Kaufman said that in coming years, the Coffee Bean expects to open several more East Coast locations, including in the District.
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf sells hand-roasted coffee and loose leaf teas, including espresso drinks and tea lattes. But it is perhaps most famous for its ice blended drinks, which were being turned out at an unprecedented rate by the late 1980s, years before frappuccino was a household name.
The Hilton traditionally partners with Starbucks for in-house coffee shops, but store manager Bob Groves said the hotel wanted to mix things up a bit this time around.
“They [Coffee Bean] still have a grip on their product and where it comes from,”Groves said, who spent a month in L.A. learning about the inner workings of the business from the ground up.
The location will benefit from the Hilton facilities, with its pastries baked fresh daily downstairs and salads and sandwiches from the Hilton kitchens that aren’t on the menu anywhere else. The store has an open floor plan and gleams with shiny new espresso machines. There are about 20 seats in the store and five flatscreen TVs, but there’s also plenty of seating (and WiFi) in the hotel lobby.
Will Coffee Bean draw people off the street and into the hotel for a cup ‘o Joe? Only time will tell. But, Groves said, “they just have a better product. I can’t drink a chai latte anywhere else.”