By Tiffany Hsu
9:01 AM PST, January 30, 2013
Los Angeles company Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is celebrating its 50-year mark by giving customers a free 16-ounce cup of its Anniversary Blend coffee or tea.
The promotion runs all day Wednesday at participating locations in California and Arizona.
The company was founded in 1963, selling whole bean coffee and loose leaf tea. The original store opened in Brentwood in 1968.
The chain now has nearly 900 stores in 25 countries and, along the way, says it pioneered the ice-blended drinks and chai tea lattes – as well as the free in-store wi-fi – now ubiquitous in many of its competitors' stores.
In 2010, Coffee Bean began offering its CBTL Single Serve Beverage System – a one-cup home brewing machine that it says pre-empted the similar contraptions since launched by competitors such as Starbucks.
The company has had four years of positive same-store sales growth above 5%, said Chief Executive Mel Elias in an interview this week. Globally, annual revenue comes in at more than $500 million, he said.
Next up for the company? A new prototype store concept to be tried out in June. The chain’s first store in Europe, set to open in Germany in the spring. A book about tea doubling as a children’s fairy tale. Tests on cordless charging for customers with power-hungry electronics.
“We’ve really been able to influence popular culture by starting to do a lot of things early on that are now second nature to most people,” Elias said. “But at the time, it was like, are you crazy?”
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