Launch Of the city’s first outlet of the international chain of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

Velachery is probably attempting to become the Vegas of Chennai. Do we see you smirk? Let’s give it some credit, for a lot is brewing in this suburb. It’s got quite a few firsts in Chennai coming up in terms of hospitality, shopping and dining. While most of them are still in the process of being set up, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is ready with its first outlet at the Phoenix Market City.

In its 50th year now, the brand has its presence in 27 countries with almost 1,000 stores, out of which 23 are in India. Chennai is the 23rd one.

Started in 1963 as a private venture by the Hyman couple in Southern California, it dealt with beans and tea leaves produced by them. Eventually the cafe came up. Till 1998 CBTL only had its outlets in the U.S. Subsequently, the Sassoon brothers, who bought over the company, launched it in Singapore, followed by outlets in Malaysia. The first one in India came up in Delhi followed by Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Chennai. “We plan to launch four to five more outlets in Chennai in the next two years,” says Amit Maheshwari, Operation Head-CBTL, India.

Since the unit here is fairly new the food menus aren’t ready yet. It’s quite a task to guess what the person at the counter is saying what with Vengaboys’ ‘My Heart goes shala la la’ blaring out of the speakers. We had to lip read and settle for penne pasta in white sauce. “The menu had to be tweaked a little to suit the Indian palate,” says Maheshwari.

The café is a cosy space with bright red couches and big wooden boxes of tea for tables. Most of them are occupied by late-lunchers and post-lunch snackers. We find a seat just next to the kitchen and at regular intervals get a sneak peak inside, where cooks wearing caps are huddled over dishes mixing, beating and grating amidst intense discussion, much like Mc. Dreamy and his team of doctors huddled over a patient in Grey’s Anatomy. The service is quick. Even before my snooty friend is done with updating her Facebook status about the travails of travelling to the suburbs, the drinks arrive. The pure double chocolate is a frozen blend of dark chocolate along with a sparing amount of white chocolate. It’s thick and delicious enough to keep the friend from whining about the “long” journey.  Steaming hot and frothy, the vanilla latte has a rich and refreshing flavour of vanilla, but it’s a touch too sweet. “Everything required for the beverages come from the U.S. All the powders, syrups and natural ingredients are grown by CBTL,” adds Maheshwari.

The chicken and mushroom penne in white sauce isn’t entirely satisfying. But after a couple of spoons it tends to grow on you. The portion looks small but is comfortably enough for two. And finally we sink our spoons into the Philadelphia cheese cake, which appears like a wobbly lady on wedge heels but steadily trumps over everything on the menu.

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is located at F-33A, Phoenix Market City, Velachery. Call: 3008 3411