Truly authentic chai is hard to come by. I am so particular about the way chai tastes, that I just make it myself when I have the craving. Call me narcissistic, but they are my taste buds and memories to be pleased! Satish has coined “tea snob” for me. However, I have found some pretty good chai in the city.
Samovar Tea Lounge has my heart and palate won over when it comes to a great cup of chai. Just thinking about it makes me want to rush over to the closest location to indulge in a cup of their chai. They use only organic, fair-trade, whole leaf black tea and organic spices. Another key factor: they use organic, whole milk. I love Samovar so much that my girlfriends threw my bridal shower there last summer. The key to their creamy, dreamy chai is in their brewing time. In most households, chai is brewed for about 5-8 minutes over the stove then served quickly. However, Samovar brews their chai for about 30-45 minutes, strains it, and lets it simmer for another 30 minutes. Most people do not have that kind of patience for their chai. “I need my chai, and I need it NOW.” However, on this rainy day, I will let my tea brew and simmer for 90 minutes while anxiously awaiting the results. And then I will blog about it.
On a blustery day, I stepped into Kasa Indian Eatery to be comforted by spicy warmth. It was so cold out and missing my grandparents more so on this day, I decided to give their chai a try. I actually really liked it. I was transported back to 1995 in India, stopping on the roadside to have chai from a Chai Wallah. The flavor of the chai was dominated by cinnamon and cardamom. It was creamy goodness. However, this was a really sweet chai- a bit too much for my liking.
I always ask cafes and restaurants how they make their chai and the disappointing response is “syrupy concentrate”. So when Dolores Park Café said they make their chai from scratch, I had to give it a try! On another blustery day, this chai warmed up my soul. It was almost perfect. The flavors were a bit milder than what I am used too. I like my chai bold, leaving my senses in a (good) daze.
I am dying to try the Chai Cart! I have heard many yummy things about this elusive Chai Cart pushed by Paawan Kothari (who also runs Green Coriander) in the Mission. Paawan steps away from the norm and concocts all sorts of flavors, such as the Lemongrass Chai. The Chai Cart has quite a following and I need to get in on this… I just may call up the Chai Walli myself for a cup of chai!
Chai is very special to me and I will share my recipe and fondest memory on June 6th.