The company was founded by Herbert Hyman in September 1963, as a coffee service for offices. His wife Mona (whom he married in 1966) and he honeymooned in Sweden where they discovered quality coffee. This sparked the decision to import, roast and sell gourmet coffee in Los Angeles, opening the first Coffee Bean store in 1968 in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood. Innovations included selling whole beans and touting their country of origin and allowing customers to observe the beans being roasted and then to sample varieties before making a purchase. Hyman died on April 28, 2014, at the age of 82.
By the 1970s the firm had expanded to 10 stores in Southern California and had added exotic teas to the menu. In the summer of 1987 an employee brought a blender to a Westwood store where he mixed together ice, coffee extract and chocolate powder, paving the way for the company’s signature Ice Blended drinks. With the invention of the Ice Blended, the chain saw a surge in popularity.] The drink was a predecessor to the Starbucks Frappuccino. In 1991, when it was first planning to expand into Los Angeles, Starbucks tried to purchase the firm, but Hyman turned them down. The opening of Starbucks stores in Los Angeles unexpectedly helped Coffee Bean’s business, by driving curious customers to the area.
In 1996, the Hymans sold the Asian franchise rights to Singaporean brothers Victor Sassoon and Sunny Sassoon. The Sassoons quickly expanded the company in the US and internationally, opening the first outlet in Singapore in 1996, and in Malaysia the following year. Within two years, they had opened 29 stores in Singapore and Malaysia, almost as many stores as the Hymans had opened in their 35 years of ownership. In 1998, the Sassoons, along with longtime friend Severin Wunderman, purchased the parent company, International Coffee & Tea LLC, from the Hymans, and took it global. Victor Sassoon works out of Singapore, Sunny Sassoon works in Los Angeles, and Wunderman is a silent partner with no role in management. International Coffee & Tea, LLC remains the name of the holding company.
Sunny Sassoon served as president and CEO from 1998 until 2009, when he moved to the executive chairman position until 2015. In 2009, Mel Elias (Sassoon’s brother-in-law) assumed the role of president and CEO of the company, after spending seven years as chief operating officer. In September 2013, a significant equity position in Coffee Bean was acquired from International Coffee & Tea by US-based Advent International, in partnership with South Korea-based Mirae Asset Private Equity and Taiwan-based CDIB Capital. The Sassoon family remains a large shareholder. On September 3, 2015, John Fuller assumed the position of president and CEO.
On July 24, 2019, Jollibee Foods Corporation purchased The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for $350 million.