For a nation of hardcore cha-samosa enthusiasts, the coffee culture is a relatively new one in Dhaka, and the idea of a café as separate from a diner or restaurant is still something that’s taking time to catch up in some areas, but we can finally boast a range of fine coffee franchises and local joints. In this new series, we review the experience of some of our favourites.
From traffic jams to water shortages, there’s so much your average Dhakaite has to deal with on a daily basis, that when you find a favourite café near your place, which provides not only great coffee, but an ambience that can simultaneously accommodate quiet work time, and casual conversation, you consider it cash well spent to be able to frequent it. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, a popular franchise from sunny California, is definitely one of those.
What makes this place a favourite? In the spirit of “research”, I sat down with three regulars over three separate visits at the joint to share their go-to orders.
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Brunch with the bestie
It’s bright sunny Saturday midday, and I’m already late for my brunch meeting with my best friend Diya. When I finally scramble up the stairs, I find her waiting in the airy patio area, immaculate in an indigo Aranya sari, nursing an Earl Grey tea and a long-suffering expression.
We make a show of perusing the menu, but really, we both know what we’re going to have: the Eggs Benedict. Everyone does their Benny a little different, and CBTL’s one sits on rosemary foccacia bread, and is topped with cheese, turkey ham, drizzled liberally with a hollandaise sauce. Served with a side garden salad, it’s the perfect choice for brunch. While Diya asks for another Earl Grey, my staple is the dark chocolate latte, which combines a freshly pulled shot of espresso with a velvety kiss of chocolate and a splash of milk – the perfect choice for someone who’s not a habitual coffee drinker.
This time of the day, somewhere between high noon and the afternoon, it’s quiet, and sitting out here, in the sun-dappled patio, munching away on a meal made for quiet gossip, it’s a recipe for serenity, and worth the splurge.
Dinner with the hubs
Sunday night, and I’m back in with my favourite partner in crime. As the doors swish open, we can tell it’s a lively evening, but even then, the baristas greet us with broad smiles and their signature singsong “Welcome to Coffee Bean”, which for some, is a reason for repeat visits.
As luck would have it, we do manage to snag a window seat, so have a clear view of the road outside as we get comfortable. All the other tables around us are occupied, and the warm tones and casual seating, with the giant TV on in one corner, gives the place a feeling of intimacy, like we’re all sitting in someone’s living room.
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Our meal of choice is the Caesar Salad, and we both opt for added chicken in ours. I’m getting my usual dark chocolate latte, while he takes a regular sized daily brew. CBTL’s coffee is mainly premium roasted Arabica, and the aromatic dark roasted brew in particular has an intense flavour with a pleasantly tart finish. The salad is a medley of romaine lettuce, hard boiled eggs, croutons, caesar dressing and parmesan cheese shavings, and of course, for us, chunks of grilled chicken, all tumbled together to provide texture and taste.
Late night coffee with the crew
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It’s a rainy Friday night, and this time, I’m putting my favourite café to a sort of litmus test. Tomal and Reeti are friends who just got back from LA, the birthplace of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I’m curious to know how ours compare to the OG outlets, hence the meet up.
It’s an hour from closing time, and we’re in the mood for something sweet. Sidling up into one of the red booths in the area behind the coffee counter, we can see we’re not the only ones. The place is abuzz with nyctophiles on a coffee high. The servers whiz past us, loaded trays in hand.
Tomal takes an Americano, while Reeti opts out of coffee. We decide to split two cheesecakes among us, so we get a Blueberry Cheesecake, and a Chicago Cheesecake. For fans of the no-bake cheesecake, this is a pretty decent choice. Our forks sink into a bed of creamy sweet cheese till it hits the delightfully crumbly crust. The blueberry adds a piquant counterpoint to the sweetness of the dessert, while the Chicago cheesecake is perhaps a bigger hit for those with a sweet tooth.
I’m eyeballing the pair over my latte as they take everything in. Finally, with a nod, they acknowledge that the spacious, yet cosy settings, the friendly staff, and the quality food have all met, and even exceeded their expectations. Test passed, the caffeine-fuelled conversations continue.