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May 23, 2007 10:58 AM

Chai Honor Roll

This morning I ordered a chai at a coffee shop near work and wasn't impressed by the thin, watery taste and uneven spices. It struck me that I've had some really exceptional chais in SF, including the following:

Best in show
Cafe Amici on Montgomery--liquid crack, instantly addicting and meriting a warning from C Everett Koop. A full, rich flavor and perfectly balanced spices. I've had both full fat and non-fat versions and haven't been able to detect the difference. This is rich enough to constitute a meal.

Very good
Canteen: I think (can it be?) that they mix their own brew here—I ordered a chai several months ago and was told they had to make it; it came out when our check was ready. A bit less rich and full flavored as Café Amici, but I want less when I'm eating something along with the chai.

Lahore Karahi: Thinner, not as rich, but a nice balance of spices. Free with your order of food.

Tasty Curry: Like Lahore Karahi, thinner, but nicely balanced and a complements the food here. Free with your order of food.

There are too many disappointments to list, so I've included only the good to best versions. Any other recommendations?

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  1. It's awful for a variety of reasons--the vile precooked stuff most cafes use and reheat, cheap tea/sawdust, you shouldn't really boil tea for as long as you should boil spices.

    Samovar's chai is excellent and for them, cheap ($3.50).

    Don't buy it from them, though, as I did, to discover it's just a tin of spices without any Indian tea.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Windy

      Can absolutely 2nd the deliciousness of the chai at Samovar. I live in the Chicago area and can't find chai here that's anywhere close to being as good!

    2. Cafe Amici? Really? I've liked their Italian-style hot chocolate, which is very thick but sweeter than I prefer. Never would have occurred to me to try their chai. Great to know that there's top-notch chai downtown and available in the early morning.

      Any idea how they make or where they get their chai?

      4 Replies
      1. re: david kaplan

        They have canisters of David Rio chai (and other assorted teas) available for purchase, but I'm not sure if that's what they make for their house chai.

        I used to get it on my way to work before 7 a.m.--it was pretty much the only thing that made me happy to troll the Financial District at that hour.

        1. re: pane

          I'll try Cafe Amici's chai the next time we have a cold windy morning in the FiDi...

          Pane - that looks like the old fondly-remembered wooden card catalog at Cal's main library.......?

          1. re: lmarie

            Tried the chai at Cafe Amici this afternoon. I don't think it quite qualifies as chai, at least in the traditional sense. Very rich, very sweet - almost more like I was drinking a dessert. It was tasty to start, but I thought it just became a bit overwhelming.

            1. re: nsheth

              Agreed. I found it cloying and too thick, though tasty. Same pros and cons as their Italian-style hot chocolate, in my opinion.

      2. All vile crap compared to the best you can get in the entire bay area, but you have to go to Half Moon Bay to get it. Coastside Coffee and Chai at the corner of 92 and 1 (in the strip next to Wells Fargo). Best chai outside of India.

        Get it while you still can. The owner, Raman, is awaiting possible eviction as the landlord tries to upgrade the whole complex by jacking the rent too high to survive (or sell out to Peet's).

        1 Reply
        1. re: LarryW

          Could we pool our resources and get him a traveling chai truck?