You can find close-to-authentic chai in New York City if you know where to go. Here's our guide to the best options in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.
'chai' on Serious Eats
My favorite chai is steeped loose, with whole spices, but at my desk in the morning, I often reach for the easy way out. This blend from Choice Organic teas smells so amazing that I don't feel bad at all: sweet ginger, cinnamon, and clove waft up like freshly baked gingerbread.
If you're a green tea lover with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head, you'll enjoy this seasonal offering from Republic of Tea. This subtly spiced tea makes for a nice change from standard chai—the smooth green tea is just delicately laced with cinnamon and plum. (The flavoring, they promise, is 'all natural.')
The spices that make up traditional masala chai usually include some combination of five basic spices: cardamom, ginger, clove, black pepper, and cinnamon. Other spices and flavorings may include anise, fennel, nutmeg, vanilla, coriander, allspice, bay leaves—you get the idea. Some people really empty out the whole spice rack here.
I'm not in favor of holiday creep, but this spiced-up Assam tea has such a delicious winter-appropriate aroma that I'm almost feeling ready to deck the halls. Cinnamon, ginger, anise, and cardamom come together with brisk, malty tea flavors for a spicy, eye-opening cup.
The Chocolate Chai is offered hot, iced, or latte-style—I prefer the latter especially when the weather calls for thunderstorms. Chocolate shards and black tea are mixed with a spice blend rich in cardamom, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.
At Teaism in DC, the Chai Shake is light on both the wallet and stomach. A scoop of cinnamon gelato from the beloved local shop Dolcezza is blended with ice and Teaism's freshly brewed chai.
Good Earth Vanilla Chai is incredibly aromatic, immediately releasing a blend of creamy vanilla and peppery spices (listed as chicory root, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, and star anise). The flavor of the brewed cup is remarkably balanced.
There's your everyday chai, and then there's Podunk's Cardamom And Black Pepper Chai. It's chai intensified.