Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is the only place I know in Manila that serves chai tea. Starbucks used to have it, although I had to ask for it (it’s not on the menu) and even then, it was this pathetic chai flavored tea bag that they dumped into a cup of hot water. Uh, I don’t think so. There are only a handful of CBTL’s in Manila — they are nowhere near as ubiquitous as Starbucks, so it’s special for me every time I go. Of course I like the Chai Latte, a complex blend of tea, spices, and steamed non-fat milk. One Christmas, they even had this special chai tea called the Winter Dream. It was pumped with cinnamon and made the back of my throat tingle. Loved it. Right now, CBTL is offering the pomegranate blueberry tea latte. It sounds exotic, and it might be for some people. It’s a sweet tea drink with overtones of blueberry and mild orange.
When I’m feeling the need for speed (the caffeinated sort), then I go for the brewed coffee drinks: latte, mocha, and the white chocolate dream, which has a touch of white chocolate syrup. The caveat here however is that drinks with these flavored syrups sometimes tend to be too sweet, even for me. (Believe it or not) At least people in these large chain coffee shops are nice enough about replacing my drink. I wish I could say the same about service elsewhere.
I’m convinced that the reason why CBTL’s drinks are so deliriously addictive is because of the French Deluxe Vanilla powder they use. For sale at all their stores, this powder smells like vanilla and has that richness and complexity that most coffee drinks wish they had. I once bought a 22-ounce container of the stuff (almost P600!) and used it in place of creamer in my coffee. I once even used it as a substitute for dried milk powder in a bread recipe I was trying out. (Yes, the bread turned out delicious!). I dare say that this powder transforms everything it’s mixed into something that makes you want more more more. I once looked at the nutritional stats on the side of the box, and let’s just say that I didn’t look again. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, and as we always said in culinary school, “fat equals flavor!”
The pastries at CBTL are a sight to behold: towering cakes with perfectly cake-combed frosting, large muffins, thick scones, and crunchy biscotti. It ends there, however. None of the sweet treats that I’ve tried here have been worth ordering again; it’s all beauty over taste. As my best friend, Bal describes it, “Not too glorious, eh?” Their scones are terribly hard, and after one blast in the microwave, become harder, with a roughness that no amount of butter or jam could disguise. I could go on, but before you start wondering why I even go to CBTL considering how bad their pastries are, listen up: I go for their muffins, which are high and mighty and soft; their apple Danish, which is large and light (but it’s not available often); and the biscotti.
Recently, I was overjoyed when a CBTL opened in Salcedo Village, near the Makati Sports Club. It’s close enough to me so that I can steal away whenever I need down time. A pastry and my favorite CBTL drink of the moment … ah, life is good.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations