Take the spice route: Chai tea in Vancouver

The allure of India’s signature spiced and fragrant hot drink has taken Vancouver by storm. Whether you like your chai straight up as is most authentic or creamy white with steamed milk for a truly warming treat, there are some great cafés to get your homemade chai fix. [Image credit: iStock.com/lolostock]

East is East

4433 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3R2

This fusion Indian/Middle Eastern restaurant is a sure bet for any of your curry or roti cravings — warm spices, cooling chutneys and raita and soft chewy naan round out sumptuous feasts amid great live music. And their chai is a thing of beauty. Authentic, spiced and creamy with either milk, soy or almond milk, small cups are offered free of charge if you’re waiting for a take-out order. But we recommend finishing your meal with a full mug. Better than dessert.

Elysian Coffee Roasters Inc

2301 Ontario St, Vancouver, BC V5T 2X5

With somewhat of a cult following, Elysian Coffee is said to have some of the best brews around. And while they’re known for their expert pours of Intelligentsia coffee and their brisk but friendly service, they also serve up a warm and cozy chai. Order one along with a sweet accompaniment like their perfectly sized hazelnut cookies or a shattering, buttery croissant and nab a seat where you can to relax with friends or a good book — sorry technophiles — no Wi-Fi here.

Vij's Rangoli

1488 11th Ave W, Vancouver, BC V6H 1L1

If Vikram Vij and partner Meeru Dhalwala and team are considered some of the best Indian chefs in the Lower Mainland (and they are) then you can bet they also brew up a mean chai tea. Head to the more casual of their restaurants, Rangoli, for some of the tastiest around. Classic chai refills are frequent and plenty (note, though, that the almond chai is not bottomless). And as with all their dishes, the spicing is done with an expert hand and the mug is brought to you warm and comforting — much like the whole experience here.

Granville Island Tea Co

38-1689 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9

There are some who consider the chai at this Granville Island Market stall to be some of the best in the city. And it’s difficult not to be drawn into the active tea bar where earthy and bright aromas entice from beautiful wooden shelves lined with tea tins. The secret ingredient here is butter, melted into their Masala blend and then stirred into piping hot black tea. Top with steamed milk for a decadent pause amid the bustle of the market.

Artisian Tea Bar

3578 Fraser St, Vancouver, BC V5V 4C6

For a truly impassioned tea experience, wander up to the 3500 block on Fraser, appropriately not far from Little India, where Phong Vo, owner and tea master at Artisan Tea Bar, will concoct with love and attention the perfectly steeped tea of your dreams. One of their most popular drinks is the Master Chai Tea Latte, fragrant with fresh spices and organic assam black tea. Take it to go and head west to Main to browse beautiful Indian textiles and bins of colourful spices.

Coo Coo Coffee

477 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2G2

It’s easy to miss this little inconspicuous coffee shop on the edge of Yaletown, especially considering the plethora of café options presented in this trendy neighbourhood. But don’t overlook Coo Coo Coffee when on the hunt for your chai tea. Made in-house, the drink is not as sweet as some of the syrupy, mass-produced versions out there, and the soothing smell of cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorn, ginger and clove will help ease you into a morning or afternoon of relaxation as you watch the neighbourhood go by.

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