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.
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?
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).
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?
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.
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.