Philippine Daily Inquirer

Get in touch with your inner barista

By: Scott Garceau
The Philippine Star
June 19, 2011

MANILA, Philippines - There’s no question: coffee culture has a clutch on Manilans. People are no longer content to go with 3-in-1 packs — they’ve gotta have their lattes and grandes. The smell of fresh coffee, the sound of beans grinding and milk frothing — it’s all part of the experience of coffee. And usually the best place to get that experience is at large coffee chains.

But The Coffee Bean& Tea Leaf® has this weird idea. They want people to pull their own cappuccinos, espressos and chai lattes — at home. They want Manilans to learn how to be full-fledged baristas in the comfort of their kitchens and offices, whipping out macchiatos and café au laits with the ease of operating an iPod.

How? They’re now offering their own “complete beverage system” for home called CBTL™. Now, just don’t call it a “coffee maker.” This beauty does much more than drip hot water through beans. With the CBTL™ — in five sleek colors and a sublime Italian design crafted by legacy brand Caffitaly — you can prepare coffee, cappuccino, espresso, decaf espresso, café mocha, macchiato, vanilla latte, café au lait, Americano, green tea, black tea, chai tea and hot chocolate. All with one machine, and all with the ease of entering your PIN number at an ATM machine.

Media guests were recently invited to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® branch at Burgos Circle in The Fort to try out the CBTL™ Single Serve Beverage System. And even those who are novices at ordering high-end coffee found they were capable of pulling the perfect espresso.

At first, I was afraid it was going to be a contest: who could draw the fastest cappuccino and win a barista apron? But the dozen or so media pairs, each lined up before a brand-new CBTL™ machine, merely had to follow instructions: and this turned out to be as simple as dropping in the desired coffee capsule, placing a cup under the nozzle and pressing a button. This is like the iPod of coffee machines: user-friendly, a little light on the technical details; just press and play. Really, now: it’s not rocket science after all.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® had its coffee gurus from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles (home of the brand since 1963) in town to explain the beauty of the CBTL™ beverage system. They’re calling it a “Nespresso Killer,” and one wonders what Nespresso did to deserve cafecide. Well, for one thing, other than having George Clooney as its endorser, Nespresso is made by an instant coffee maker (Nescafe), and this is just heretical to true coffee lovers. For another, CBTL™ doesn’t just do coffee: it offers a variety of hot beverages, the full range that you’d see at any The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® branch here in Manila.

But isn’t this going to, like, put your baristas out of business? “No, not really,” explains Walden Chu, president of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® Philippines, “because coffee is a lifestyle. At the end of the day, we know that people still want to go out to the stores, hang out with friends, relax over drinks.”

The numbers bear this out. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® reports at-home coffee consumption has gone up — from 78 to 86 percent — in the past few years. And the desire for gourmet coffee has risen from 14 to 24 percent in the past decade. It’s true: once you go home-pulled black, you never go back. “It’s simply not enough to enjoy coffee just in the cafes,” Chu says. “We found that people wanted to duplicate and extend that coffee experience outside of the stores, take it home with them, take it everywhere.”

If you purchase a CBTL™ (for about P13,750, available in local outlets) you will no doubt be returning to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® regularly to load up on the CBTL™ capsules, which are sold in handy packs of 10 and 24. There’s a whole other world of merchandise involved with the CBTL™ beverage system, such as the frother — a separate electric machine that effortlessly whips up and heats your milk to a perfect creamy texture for chai lattes and cappuccinos. Then there are the vanilla and chocolate flavor packs to add alittle something-something to your chai latte or mocha. (Hey, no one ever said a sublime coffee experience would be cheap.)

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® also had their coffee expert, a man whose card lists his name simply as “Feroz,” on hand to explain the artistry of coffee. Having trained in Europe for years, he knows that different cultures prefer their brews different ways: Europeans and Middle Easterners like espresso-based drinks, Asians prefer strong, bitter coffee and Americans like it sweet and milk-infused. Either way, it all adds up to more coffee consumption of better quality.

Feroz starts up the frother for us and… it’s totally silent. Hey! Wait a minute! Where’s the telltale “sssshhhhhhhhhwoooooo” sound we’ve come to expect from milk frothers, informing us that cappuccino is on the way? Feroz shrugs andsays, “Well, now you have a reason to go back to the stores: to hear that sound.”