I Tasted Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Mocha Java Medium Roast

by Nigel Ong

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL) may not be as big as Starbucks, but it has a strong presence on the US West Coast and in many parts of Asia. Their coffee shops are known for providing great roasts and good service.

I picked up a bag of their popular Mocha Java blend and see if I could replicate the same taste at home. 

In this post, I will brew and sample the CBTL Mocha Java blend and compare it with other relevant coffees in my collection before deciding if you should try this coffee.

About Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Mocha Java Blend

While the full name is Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, you may know it by its simpler name – Coffee Bean. It is a Los Angeles-based coffee chain founded in 1963 by Herbert Hyman. 

Like Tim Hortons and its double-double coffee, CBTL also made its name by offering a unique twist to coffee – the ice-blended coffee. This coffee recipe was first introduced in 1987 and has since become CBTL’s signature product.

CBTL is known for sourcing the finest ingredients and offering a diverse range of roasts that cater to a large array of tastes and preferences. You can also get their coffee as whole beans, ground, or various coffee capsule formats.

CBTL’s Mocha Java is blended with the same basic formula that made it popular – mixing Javanese Arabica beans with coffee from the Middle East and Africa. CBTL’s twist here mixes beans from Java and Ethiopia together.

This should produce a fruity, floral, and herbal blend of coffee that should be very enjoyable to drink. How good is it? Let’s see.

First Impression

I picked up my bag of CBTL Mocha Java Blend from Amazon. Mine arrived as whole bean coffee in a small 8 oz bag. That’s 226 gm for you metric folks. You can also get them in larger bags, such as 16 oz.

The packaging of the coffee takes a different approach. Rather than a bright, eye-catching, Instagram-ish color scheme, CBTL uses a more homely color scheme. 

The coffee’s packaging is complete, as it has all the expected essentials. There’s a foldable tab to help keep your beans fresh and a one-way valve allowing carbon dioxide to leave, preventing oxygen from entering and ruining the beans.

The coffee is also dated well – I can see a ‘Roasted On’ date and a ‘Best By’ date. You can at least know when the coffee is roasted and pick the freshest ones. 

The aroma came rather gently when I first popped open the bag. After the coffee aroma, I picked up some floral, fruity, and herbal notes. 

This combination of Ethiopian and Java beans should be a comfortable, fun coffee with pleasant notes. But let’s see how it performs in cupping.

I poured out some coffee beans and observed them. The beans are shaped and sized rather evenly without too much breakage. This should help produce good coffee since evenly sized beans should roast well and not have too many under or over-roasted beans. 

As for the color of the beans, they are not roasted too dark. I placed them alongside other medium roasts, and the beans seemed slightly lighter in color. Perhaps CBTL does not roast the beans too much to preserve their fruity and floral notes.

How Does Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Mocha Java Blend Taste?

I will use three brewing techniques to sample the CBTL Mocha Java Blend. They are immersion, filtration, and espresso. Here are the reasons why:

French Press: This immersion brewing method is known for delivering a rich, full-bodied cup of coffee, complete with some sediment. It’ll allow me to experience the coffee’s robust flavor profile.

Pour Over with Filter Paper: This filtration method is great for a cleaner cup, minimizing oils and sediments. It should highlight the more delicate flavors of the coffee.

Espresso: By brewing the coffee as an espresso, I’ll concentrate the coffee into a small, potent shot. This should reveal any unique flavors that might be overshadowed by other brewing methods.

French Press

I prepared my French press coffee using my trusty Bodum Caffettiera, following the brewing guidelines suggested by Illy Coffee. 

I combine 15 grams of coffee with 180ml of hot water, around 185°F. That’s about 85°C for you metric folks. I allow the coffee to brew for 4 minutes before pouring.

The coffee’s aroma is enticing, rich, and quite light. It is one of the more fragrant coffees I have sampled and is very inviting. 

As I pour the coffee from the French press, the CBTL Mocha Java Blend looks somewhat dark, but it has a touch of clarity and transparency. The aroma has hints of fruits and floral fragrances.

The initial flavor is notably clear upon my first sip, without much smoke or earthy notes. Instead, it has a floral, fruity note, making the coffee soft to the palate.

As I sip, I allow the coffee to linger in my mouth by swirling it around. Here, I can pick up more floral notes, too. However, this is when the coffee starts to get a little disappointing. 

The flavor and aroma are nice, but the taste does not match the aroma. The coffee is surprisingly soft, too soft to match its amazing aroma. 

This soft flavor also results in a weaker finish. After I swallow, the aftertaste goes away quickly, making me want to catch up with the taste by taking more sips quickly. 

Pour Over With Filter Paper

Here, I adopted the pour-over brewing technique from Starbucks, using 20 grams of ground coffee and gradually pouring 360ml of water into it. That’s a 1:12 ratio.

This method produces a lighter, cleaner cup of coffee. The flavor profile is subtly less intense, too. The aroma remains strong, with a lighter-colored coffee. This is probably because fewer coffee particles are present.

The filter paper has done well, keeping finer coffee particles from entering the cup. With even less smoke, I believe the coffee now should be able to showcase its flavor even better here. 

I can more clearly tell the fruity and floral notes on my first few sips. I do wish for more smokiness and earthiness with this cup.

Pour-over brewing is ideal for coffee with a lighter, cleaner profile. This brewing method will work if you want to sample Intelligentsia Coffee House Blend in its most floral, fruity form. 


For the espresso, turn to my Wacaco Minipresso GR. This is a portable, hand-operated espresso device. 

I packed the ground coffee and hot water into the Minipresso and manually pumped a shot of espresso.

The espresso produced boasted a rich and creamy crema. The aroma and color of the crema were more subtle than the typical dark roast espresso here. 

It does not have a smoky, strong aroma. Instead, I picked up acidic, fruity, and floral notes. Very not espresso, to be honest. But this is expected. I don’t think CBTL intended the Mocha Java Blend to be brewed as an espresso.

The espresso is more enjoyable here, with strong floral and fruity notes and a taste of acidity. This espresso can be a sipper – you would not feel tempted to just gulp it down like your regular espresso.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Mocha Java vs. Popular Medium Blends

I decided to compare the CBTL Mocha Java Blend with other popular medium blends in my collection. These are:

Aroma-wise, the CBTL Mocha Java Blend definitely wins. The fruity and floral aroma appeals to my nose immediately. Taste-wise, however, it cannot compete with a few roasts here. 

Overall, the American Classic Blend and Dunkin Blend give me the best balance between aroma, flavor, and satisfaction. There is more ‘coffee’ in them than in CBTL’s roast.

CBTL Mocha Java tastes a bit too weak to me and reminds me of Luckin’s super soft coffee. 

I wonder if the coffee’s flavor can be improved by roasting the coffee slightly darker. The coffee may lose a bit of its fruity and floral notes. Still, the resulting addition of smoke and a ‘coffee’ taste may be nicer.

Is Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Mocha Java For You?

Having tried CBTL Mocha Java Blend, I’d describe it as a medium roast that is an amazing treat for your nose but not so much for your palate.

The Ethiopian and Javanese origin of the beans are obvious here – the floral and fruity notes are welcoming and make the coffee quite enjoyable. 

My only issue with the coffee is its weakness – it does not have the earthiness and ‘coffee’ taste I seek. In fact, the coffee may, at times, remind me of black tea.

This will be a great roast if you like your super soft, fruity, and floral coffee. If you are used to stronger roasts, this coffee may leave you hanging, wanting more.

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