For Baltimore’s kosher community, June 19 was a good day.
On Reisterstown Road, directly next to Seven Mile Market, a California-based coffee shop, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, opened its doors, unleashing a menu that — from drinks to pastries — is entirely kosher.
Although many of the days since its opening last month have been unbearably hot, general manager Bridget Gentleman says that hasn’t stopped the crowds from pouring in.
“Our best-selling items are the ice-blended frozen drinks,” she said. “We also have a peach jasmine iced tea — since it’s been so hot out, a lot of people are going for tea.”
In a coffee market saturated by Starbucks, it might come as a surprise to learn that The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf founder Herb Hyman opened his first location in Southern California in 1963, eight years before the first Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971.
After visiting a location in Las Vegas, Pikesville owners Mordy Itzkowitz and Jeffrey Gelberman decided to open what is the first franchise of the Californian biz. The company distinguishes itself with its “Caring Cup” philosophy.
“‘Caring Cup’ is our company’s philosophy of impacting lives in everything we do. From the farmers to the people in the store, we want everyone to be taken care of,” said Gentleman.
The company is currently selling limited-time coffee and tea blends called “Heroes at Heart,” and one dollar from each sale benefits local first responders. Pikesville sales benefit the Alvin S. Mintzes Hatzalah of Baltimore.
Over the years, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has supported youth education programs in the Los Angeles community and invested in protecting the environment and the well-being of coffee and tea growers internationally.
“We’ve actually built schools and health care systems and housing in some of the places where the farmers work,” said Gentleman. “Our people saw the kids didn’t have schools to go to and were just running around on the streets. As a parent, you aren’t going to be able to work 100 percent if you’re worried about your kids all day.”
Locally, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s kosher food is made by chef Dan Neuman off-site and delivered to the store. Some of the offerings include egg white feta frittata, roasted carrot goat cheese salad, penne alla vodka and portabella burger panini, all of which are created under chalav Yisrael guidelines. Baked goods are from Rosendorff’s at Seven Mile Market and Soft Serve Distributors in Jessup, Maryland.
Gentleman, who keeps kosher herself, said she and the kosher-observant customers are amazed by their panoply of choices.
“We have a sign on the counter that says, ‘Ask about our chalav Yisrael options,’” said Gentleman. “It’s fun to be the one affording that opportunity to people.”