Of Coffees & Teas

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Malad, Mumbai

What does it take for a café chain to win over multitudes of fans and live through five decades? The answer is simple – a passion for sticking to the basics and attention to detail. And that can be easily said about Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has been a personal favorite from the time the brand had just rooted itself in Delhi in 2008. Not admitting that I’m a ghost in any way but it was a regular haunt for a cup of coffee coffee and some cheese cake. Needless to say, those were the days I used to be fat. And this is in no way an accusation either, just how things were in the good ol’ days.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year and as part of the celebrations, there’s a new menu with health food options. It seems like as one grows older, switching to healthier food options becomes a necessity. Now, I’m not as old as the café chain but old enough in human years to have switched to health food some time ago, just a little sooner than Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Their new 50th Anniversary Celebration menu is a nice mix of vegetarian and non vegetarian food, quick to prepare and serve. With the new menu, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has refrained from going overboard and adding the likes of sizzlers or other heavy preparations. “We want people to come in for the aroma of the coffee, not the food. That’s why we have consciously decided on keeping heavily aromatic preparations off the new menu”, says Zeenat Nadaf, Sous Chef at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s central kitchen.

First up was the Ultimate Mocha. Sounds weird, huh? It should, because it’s one of the best cold coffee preparations I’ve tasted so far. Prepared with chocolate coated roasted coffee beans, freshly ground for the drink, lots of non-dairy cream and dark chocolate and coffee sprinkles, this cold brew is just what the doctor ordered for a hot afternoon in Mumbai.

Up next was the spaghetti with roast chicken and pesto. The pasta was done just perfect, al dente, not too soft, not undercooked; the garlic pesto was light and aromatic, not pungent and aggressive; the chicken was a bit dryish, seemed ever so slightly overcooked. However, overall, the dish scored a decent 7 out of 10 for me on taste as well as presentation.

There’s chicken sandwiches and there’s chicken sandwiches. But sometimes, someone does something and you get, you guessed it, a chicken sandwich. The grilled chicken sandwich in what goes for panini-style bread these days, was quite good. However, it did not pull off a Nadia Comaneci style perfect 10. What worked for this sandwich was the taste. Grilled chicken marinated in chili paste, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper and the tiniest amount of vinegar and honey gave it an excellent sweet and sour taste. However, what did not work for the chicken was the texture, it felt a bit dryish again in spite of the melted cheese in the sandwich. I would give it a solid 7 out of 10 and more if it weren’t for the dryness of the chicken. Other than that, the taste was brilliant.

After a most satisfactory stream of food, all that was needed now was dessert. Out came the banoffee cake. Layers of sponge, banana and coffee cream transport you to another level of food nirvana. Just that I could not go beyond level 5 of food nirvana as I hit ‘my’ sugar wall. Gone are the days when I could hog on sugary delights like there’s no tomorrow. Not any more, growing old is taking its toll on me and I can have only so much sweet in a spoonful.

Nonetheless, excellent food and coffee and my congratulations to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on their 50th anniversary.

Jaswinder Singh

I talk, write and then talk some more, usually about humor, wine and food. Creative arts = life. Nutella = bliss. Road warrior. Single, raising a dog, twice drove cross country from Delhi to Mumbai in a tiny car, can clean out nutella jars like no one else. Part time stand-up comic, full time joker.