Move over, Starbucks

KAPA‘A — The oldest and largest privately held chain of specialty coffee and tea stores recently opened its first neighbor island location in the Waipouli Town Center in Kapa‘a.

Starbucks will be Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s biggest competition on the island, but it’s not something they are worried about, at least publicly.

“We have a lot of different offerings, including the teas,” said Foodland director of corporate communications Sheryl Toda.

The Sullivan family of companies owns CB&TL, and it’s operated by Foodland, another Sullivan subsidiary.

“We have more than 30 varieties of whole leaf teas, and our beverage innovations are exclusive,” she said.

So exclusive, in fact, that they claim to have beaten Starbucks to the punch on the competing franchises’ biggest sellers.

Founded in 1963, Toda said the California-based company developed ice-blended drinks well before Starbucks introduced their wildly popular frappucinos.

The difference?

“Ours taste better,” Toda said.

Further research on the Foodland end revealed that Bean & Tea makes theirs with powder instead of syrup,for better consistency, Toda said.

“We also have a lot of drink options for children, because we have a lot of drinks that are caffeine-free,” she said.

Tea lattes, fresh baked goods and light entrees are also available.

Though the opening was originally slated for mid-May, Toda said they weren’t ready to do business at that time and pushed the soft opening back to May 30.

The official blessing is Tuesday at 6 p.m. and the grand opening is slated for Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Toda said business has been good so far.

“The store is getting busier and busier every day,” she said.

It’s the fourth location in Hawai‘i, but the first outside of O‘ahu. Toda said they hit Kaua‘i first because of availability, but stores are planned for Maui and the Big Island soon. Future Kaua‘i locations are also in the works, but not before the end of the year.

Of the 315 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf stores worldwide, 314 are in the western United States, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, The Philippines, Brunei and Australia. The other is in Israel, for reasons Toda could not explain.

Far from the Middle East, the Kapa‘a location currently staffs 12 employees and is looking for more.

In addition to providing a handful of local jobs, CB&TL is trying to support the local art community with “Art at the Bean.”

“Art at the Bean is a program we created to support Hawai‘i’s local artists,” Toda said. “Every quarter we exhibit work from a new artist to increase awareness in local artists.”

For now, coffee and tea aficionados can sip their lattes in the presence of Carol Bennett’s well-known paintings of women in water.

• Ford Gunter, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or fgunter@kauaipubco.com.

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