Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf founder Herbert Hyman died late last week at age 82 following complications from heart disease. He died at his come in Camarillo, Calif.
Long before the chain became synonymous with Hollywood celebrities and high-calorie blended drinks — it now has nearly 1,000 locations in 29 countries — Hyman was known to be one of the first advocates for coffee farmers and importers. He founded the brand’s original location in the affluent Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles 1963, three years before Peet’s and eight years before Starbucks, becoming one of a small handful of roaster/retailers during the decade paying a premium for quality beans and promoting origin to consumers.
The business grew to 10 Southern California locations throughout the 1970s, and the brand began to really take off after employees started experimenting with a coffee, a blender and ice in 1989. The Los Angeles native sold the company to Singaporean entrepreneur Victor Sassoon in 1996, after Sassoon became aware of the product while promoting a Paula Abdul tour. Three global investment firms bought huge stakes in the company late last year, supplanting Sassoon as the primary shareholder.
Hyman first got into the coffee business after visiting his wife Mona’s native Sweden, where he returned with what was then a new concept: to sell “gourmet” coffee to U.S. consumers.