Since I first started ordering lattes in college (yes, I made it that long without going the latte route), I have been a Chai Latte girl. I have tried them from all different restaurants and cafes in a whole bunch of cities, states and even countries. I thought I knew it all about chai. I was wrong! The experts at Chiya Chai in Logan Square taught me a serious lesson on chai, and other native Nepalese ingredients for a taste that is truly unique.
Boasting one of the most expansive chai programs in the entire world, Chiya Chai offers an array of Chai ranging from classic to the exotic with spices sourced directly from Nepal and nearby areas. That means there are more than 150 possible combinations of chai waiting for you in this cafe! They also offer made from scratch Nepalese and Indian influenced fare including savory pies, dumplings and curries, each one more delicious than the last.
With family roots steeped in international tea trading, Chiya Chai was founded by brothers and co-owners, Swadesh and Saujanya Shrestha, who were born in Kathmandu, Nepal. When they first moved to the United States, they encountered the “Chai Tea Latte” found in every coffee shop (the one I’ve been drinking for almost a decade). Realizing how different it was from the less sweet, but spicy, milky beverage made with their favorite teas, they wanted to share their love for the “real” drink with their friends and neighbors. And thus, deliciousness was born!
Want to get your chai on with them? Of course you do! Start by choosing a base tea from varieties like hearty black, invigorating green matcha, or caffeine-free Rooibos. I personally love the unexpected matcha! Then choose your chai flavors, which can skew from the traditional like Spicy Masala (my favorite), to more creative like Fresh Turmeric Curry and Dark Chocolate Spearmint. Finally, you can select from five milk options, including the subtle sweetness of dairy-free coconut and almond milk. Get your drink hot or over ice!
Rajee Aryal, one of the Co-Owners, gave us all the details, history and mouth-watering menu items behind Chiya Chai. We’ll see you there for your next coffee date!
Why focus on chai for your menu?
We have a long family history with as tea merchants in Nepal and have ourselves been working with mountain-grown Nepalese highland tea in the United States for many years now. Growing up in Nepal, we have fond memories of the magical drink of chai – the perfect blend of tea, milk and spices that is ubiquitous in South-Asia. Chai is a drink that is traditional yet invites creativity and innovation and that excites us. We feel that chai is a more indulgent alternative to coffee and allows for diverse flavors and ingredients, naturally lending itself to individual preferences.
What makes your chai unique?
Our Chai is brewed daily in house and made with house-ground spices and other flavor mixes. We make all our flavors ourselves, offer local organic milk and non-dairy options and have more than 20 distinct Chai blends that can be used with various milk and tea (organic black, matcha and caffeine-free) options to create 150 unique drinks tailored to your preference!
What food menu items pair the best with chai?
Chai and Pie! We offer savory fresh-baked curry pies in four different flavors (Chicken Balti, Masala Chicken, Kale and Potato and Spicy Pork) that go perfectly with our house-made Chais. A more traditional pairing is Chai and Samosa – we make our own from scratch everyday. Chai also pairs well with our spicy Masala curry fries, a customer favorite.
How do you concept and source your menu items for authenticity?
We source our organic black and green teas directly from our family business in Nepal. The concept around our chai program is focused on good ingredients, creativity and love for both traditional and novel flavor combinations. Everything we use in our Chai is natural. We mix and grind our own spices and create our unique flavors in house. There’s nothing more authentic than a Chai that is brewed fresh and mixed with house-ground spices and flavors!
How would you describe the Chicago food community?
Chicago food community is open-minded and fun. There is so much choice in the city and a wide spectrum of offerings in terms of price points, ethnicity, creativity, authenticity and innovation. Chicago is a great place to launch a unique concept such as ours because it has enough open-minded people in the community who are willing to give new, innovative ideas the support that they need to grow.
How does it feel to be a part of it?
The reception we have gotten in Chicago as a whole and Logan Square in particular has been amazing. Most of the customers who visit our café are repeat customers. We have many customers who introduce us to their community of family and friends and help us grow. We have received very positive reviews from both food critics in the food community and our customers. We are happy and grateful for their love and support.