At LocalizeAustin, we focus on community-based small businesses. But, why? Because we believe in supporting the people who are creating their own vision and impacting our community in the process – what we eat, where we shop, how we live. We tend to avoid chain stores, unless they originated in Austin. However, we have realized lately that this mentality can be closed-minded and may exclude brands, companies, and products that have a larger presence, but make an effort to align with specific cities or communities. In fact, there’s a strong pattern we’ve picked up on this year of big brands going local.
So, when we saw that Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, an international franchise with approximately 800 stores, would be carrying local food purveyors in 7 local Austin-area locations (expanding to Houston and Dallas soon), we were instantly curious and excited! We were even more thrilled to learn that a friend of a friend, Louis Singh, founder of Dishalicious home catering was one of them. So, we asked to learn more about this new initiative and the local food items we can now enjoy at Austin Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations. A BIG thanks to Louis and Kristina Ortiz, Marketing and Events Manager at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, for hosting us and allowing us to sample their new line of local (and healthy) products!
Before we dig into photos of some of the local products you can pick up in a local Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, it’s important to understand the nature of the company. It is California-based, with about 230 company-owned stores there. In addition to Texas, franchised locations exist in Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, and San Francisco, which allows for flexibility to bring in local products to keep customers coming back. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is also a kosher-style company which means you won’t find meat products at their stores (unless maybe they are kosher? We’ll need to follow up on this).
I asked how they chose the local companies to work with. Kristina mentioned both Dishalicious and Luxe Sweets had products that were top-notch and blew them away. They both made used high-quality ingredients to produce a great product that matches the quality the coffees and teas sold at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf among the top 1% in the world.
Take a look at this high-protein meal sold at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf with delicious quinoa salad with an herb vinaigrette (herbs from Austin’s Johnson’s Backyard Garden) and often contains eggs from Vital Farms or Richardson Farms.
The local favorite Egg Salad Sandwich is often made with spinach, pesto, basil from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. In fact, a team from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf visited the farm with Louis to get to know the local source of the products they now sell in Austin.
When we asked Louis what is is like to expand enough to produce for 7 local stores, he said “It hasn’t been easy. It’s been tough to create a product affordable for customers with quality ingredients, as local and as handmade as possible – quality and quantity is hard to do, and we keep adding stores. I have larned a lot in the past 38 weeks. I drink caffeine now.” In addition, he mentioned there’s been a steep (no pun intended) learning curve on packaging, labeling, and sourcing. This was supposed to be a small side project, and now he has 8 people on staff. He smiled as he mentioned he’s been able to hire some of his friends.
We acknowledge and appreicate (MEGA appreciate) the learning curve on both sides and the extra effort it has taken for an international company to invest time and resources into finding the right partners for their brand in specific communities and the extra effort it’s taken companies like Dishalicious and Luxe Sweets to expand their teams and extend hours to be able to produce and meet the demand of steady store traffic. Luxe Sweets hand rolls their croissant dough and has one person who is solely dedicated to croissants only. Each one has 13 folds, with layers of butter carefully baked on each fold. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf takes their community involvement even further than what lies within their store walls. Two of their stores (183/Anderson Mill and Slaughter/Mo-Pac) are pick-up locations for Johnson’s Backyard Garden Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce members.
We’d also like to mention what an incredible opportunity this local fusion into an international brand presents. Many of the sweets baked locally by Luxe Sweets pair nicely with coffee and tea products sold at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf stores since their drink products are at the core of their purpose. For example, we got to sample a bittersweet dark roast, the Sulawesi limited edition launched this Spring, that pairs well with chocolate croissant. They also recommend pairing the silky pomegranate tea latte with the blueberry muffin.
We’re glad that we opened our minds and mouths to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. You may find us stopping by more for local healthy and sweetly satisfying treats to go with a world-class brand of coffee or tea.
Oh, by the way, you can munch on Austin-born Tacodeli breakfast tacos, Rockstar Bagels (which we’ve written about our entertainment blog, and Austinuts at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf stores too! What’s not to love?