You Can Thank The Coffee Bean And Tea Leaf For Kickstarting The Frozen Coffee Trend

In the U.S., coffee culture is both highly commercialized and innovative, with massive chains like Starbucks, Dunkin', and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf creating a diverse and extensive menu of unique coffee drinks. As the largest coffee chain in the world, you might credit Starbucks' Frappuccino as the instigator of the frozen coffee sensation. However, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is actually to thank for kickstarting the now wildly popular frozen and blended coffee drink.

According to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's website, the first blended coffee drink was created by a store manager at its Westwood location in Los Angeles in 1987, nearly a decade before the Starbucks Frappuccino debuted in 1995. The Westwood manager used her experience living abroad in Europe and her desire to make a tasty drink out of her diet powder as the main sources of inspiration for the first blended coffee drink. She began experimenting with the resources and ingredients provided by The Coffee Bean, blending her diet powder with milk, ice, and coffee extract. 

Then, she replaced the diet powder with the chocolate powder used to make mochas and the result was the first-ever mainstream frozen iced coffee blend — called The Original Ice Blended — that remains a popular mainstay on The Coffee Bean's menu 37 years later. The blended ice menu now features numerous coffee, tea, and fruit-based beverages that can elevated with fresh, powdered, and syrup ingredients and blitzed with a few scoops of ice pellets into a wonderfully refreshing, sweet, and creamy frozen treat.

The history of frozen coffee

While blended ice coffees reached the height of popularity in North America thanks first to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and later to the Starbucks Frappuccino, the history of blended frozen coffee is considerably older. Perhaps the European drink that inspired the first blended ice drink at The Coffee Bean is the frappé. The frappé was an invention of necessity, created in Greece at an international fair during the 1950s. 

A Nestlé salesman demonstrating a children's chocolate drink made by shaking chocolate powder and milk used the same technique to prepare his instant coffee during a break. Since no hot water was available to dissolve the instant coffee, shaking it with cold water was the only recourse that came to mind. The frothy, cold coffee drink was a hit and was quickly modified by using milk or cream instead and ice cubes. Now, frappés usually consist of instant coffee, milk, and sugar, shaken or blended with ice.

Of course, blended ice drinks have taken on many forms. Today, coffee iced blends typically use espresso shots as the base instead of instant coffee and syrup instead of granulated sugar. One of the most delicious differences between frappés and blended ice drinks like Frappuccinos is that the latter combines the ingredients in a blender to create a creamy coffee milkshake. This snowballed into whipped cream and syrupy sauce toppings. Perhaps the most innovative aspect of blended drinks is that they go beyond the scope of coffee, thus appealing to all ages and taste preferences.