Chasing Chai

Posted on August 5, 2011 – 9:35 PM | by Admin
  • Share

by Parie Wood  Photos by Scott Duncan

There are two kinds of people in this world. People who drink coffee, and people who drink tea. As a caffeine-sensitive coffee hater, I drink chai.

Narrowing down the central city’s five best chai teas was much more difficult than I had expected, partially due to the fact that half of the teas I tried seemed to be made from the same pre-made concentrates. I saw the heavenly, the boring, and the watered down.  I saw Americanized five dollar drinks. I tried so much chai that I was tweaking. I can’t claim to be a foodie by any means, and I don’t expect this list to please all of you, but I did try to deduce the best tasting, feeling, smelling, and looking, chai tea as objectively as possible. A lot of places I tried were close calls and didn’t make the list for a variety of reasons. These are the ones that did.

Chicory Coffee & Tea $1.75

Going into Chicory, you wouldn’t expect them to have such good chai. Right across from the Capitol, it is a small café with a cold, cafeteria-like ambiance. The chai was served in a white paper cup, which made me automatically assume it was going to be watered down and uninteresting, but the first thing I noticed was the thick, creamy foam that puffed out of the top of the cup. It had a toasted, comforting flavor with a subtle hint of pumpkin. It was soothing and smooth, and reminded me of the inside of half-burnt marshmallows. Traditional chai is very earthy, and mildly astringent. It’s notably less sweet than the chai most of us are used to, and the flavor of black tea and other spices is much more pronounced – this was very sweet compared to traditional Indian chai but I have a sweet tooth and I loved it. Another thing that made me like Chicory’s chai is the price. It is half the price of some of the other drinks on this list, but you do pay for ambiance. This is a great chai to get… to go.

1131 11th Street

Mondo Bizarro $3.50

Wandering around the heart of Midtown, I found a place called Mondo Bizarro. Two women were putting up a sign with the new name over the sign that said Butch-N-Nellie’s. There were coffee bean bags pinned to the ceiling, loose couches with rips and tears in them, and Yo Gabba Gabba being played from two flatscreens on opposite sides of the room. The place has a very homey feel, and the chai was served in a random coffee mug which added to the effect. The drink itself had an airy, spacey foam on top that was not as thick or sweet as the one at Chicory. This tea was quite similar to traditional chai. It had a great earthy flavor to it, and left a warm milk aftertaste in the back of my mouth. Everything about Mondo Bizarro is independent and the chai stands out from most of the others for its unique organic flavor.

1827 I Street

Old Soul @ the Weatherstone $3.25

I knew I was going to like Old Soul just by the beautiful patio in the back. The staff appeared happy, and the general vibe of the place was extremely uplifting. I ordered a chai, and sat in the sun to relax. When my drink was brought out, it smelled strongly of cinnamon, and was almost black on the top from spices. The cinnamon made the top froth rather astringent, and left me puckered. It was nearly overpowering, but the semi-sweet liquid portion made up for it. The price was in the mid-range, and I was not disappointed. For someone who isn’t crazy about super sweet drinks, this would definitely be a favorite.

812 21st Street



Temple Coffee $4.10

Temple has perfected every minute detail, from music to seating, from lighting to drink temperature. The chai is no exception – if heaven could be manifested into a creamy liquid, Temple’s chai would be it. It was smooth and buttery, in a sweet, yet nearly savory way. The top had about an inch of froth that melted inside my mouth. It was served in a big white porcelain cup which holds a lot of chai. My only complaint would be the price, but I am completely willing to pay a premium for the ambiance here. Temple is the kind of place I would like to spend every lazy afternoon in, and the chai is to die for.

1014 10th Street

Tupelo Coffee House $3.50

Tupelo’s chai takes the cake for appearance. Served in a tall clear glass, you can easily see the smooth tan liquid, and inch of spiced froth. On the top of the foam was an adorable heart squeezed out of chocolate, (I’m a sucker for that sort of thing). At the perfect temperature, this chai was not watery, nor milky, and had a subtle roasted aftertaste. From the first sip I tasted a definite vanilla flavor, which made me want more every drink I took. Tupelo’s is a relaxed place to sit and read a book, work on a laptop, or in my case, reflect upon all of the teas I had sampled.

5700 Elvas Ave.

  1. One Response to “Chasing Chai”

  2. avatar

    By Allen Young on Aug 10, 2011 | Reply

    Great work Parie! Very informative. You continue to make your principal proud. I look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

Post a Comment