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Case Study

A coffee trading pioneer: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Coffee bean and tea Leaf

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf was founded in 1963 by Herb Hyman, who began importing and roasting coffee to sell to local offices. After gaining a taste for finer beans on a trip to Sweden, Hyman introduced a more hands-on approach to selling his product.

One of many retail innovations was to invite customers to observe the beans being roasted and sample various varieties before making their purchase.

This commitment to high-quality produce and excellent customer service saw the company quickly expand to ten stores in Southern California by the end of the 1970s. The brand’s popularity increased further in the 1980s following the creation of its now signature Ice Blended drinks. The predecessor to Starbucks’ Frappuccino, it was unlike anything sold in most American coffee shops at the time.

Following its own meteoric rise, Starbucks would come calling in 1997, first opening a store near Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s San Francisco location and then offering to buy the company’s now sizeable chain of stores. Not only was the offer declined, but Hyman credited its rival’s arrival in the area with attracting more customers to his stores.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has retained its commitment to sourcing only the finest produce. The company’s coffee master, Jay Isais, selects the top 1% of Arabica beans from the world’s best growing regions in East Africa, Latin America and the Pacific for use in its products. All beans continue to be roasted in small batches at the company’s facility in Camarillo, California.

Today, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf serves coffee, tea, soft drinks, snacks and more to customers across the US and 31 other countries from its network of over 1,000 stores.

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