Chai Lattes equate a beautiful and silky frothy twist to classic tea, a challenger to Melbourne’s world-renowned coffee culture.
We know that Melbourne is coffee central – an obsession that is not new, with hundreds of famous hotspots giving Melbournians their daily coffee fix. Some of us however aren’t coffee addicts, or simply don’t like the taste. It’s only natural to want to stray from your hot chocolates or the standard Earl Grey as you stare desirously at your friend’s coffee.
Chai Lattes were not always a part of the Western culture and found in coffee houses. Dating back to the ancient courts of India 5000 years ago, where Chai was just a tea, no latte. Here; tea was used as a healing brew, the mix of spices in chai was used to heal the body of any ailments. The word “Chai” means tea in Eurasian cultures, so calling it Chai tea is a little bit redundant, but saying “tea tea” is sure to give you a good giggle.
Originally containing only warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and peppercorn; Chai Lattes evolved through the British’s involvement in 1835. Their creation of black tea and blending it with milk and spice changed what started in the ancient culture of south Asian countries, and ending in the corner of city coffee shops here in Melbourne.
Like coffee, there is both good and bad Chai Lattes. Bad being overly sweet with no spice, and good being a perfect balance in between. Finding the best Chai Lattes can be hard, especially with coffee taking all the attention. Luckily, I’ve sourced out the top places, and here they are!
Located in the oh-so-famous Flinders Lane in the heart of the CBD, it wasn’t hard to miss with a large line coming out the door of Dukes Coffee Roasters. But with a long queue comes great expectation… and it certainly did live up to them.
The café is much like a little box packaged with sleek and style that strays from its Asian roots. It’s a quaint and quirky housing style, with its minimalist interior and wood shelter that provides an intimate, warm setting. The dim lighting carried an aroma of sophistication and class – what you would expect for the housing of renowned coffee.
Much like the place, the Chai Latte is quite small, but it makes up for it in its beautiful, and delicate flavour. The sweetness and its subtle spice is a perfect balance in its silky froth, giving you softness both in texture and in taste. It’s a tantalizing, sweet warmth in the pit of your stomach, a spot coffee cannot fill with its harsh bitterness.
Further along Flinders Lane is this little gem called Seedling Café, a tiny square of a room that has a cosy fit for only about 10 people. It not only houses the upcoming popular beverage of Chai Lattes, but the more trendy vegan, paleo, and gluten free food and drink options on another whole level of healthy goodness.
“Our chai lattes are made with a combination of eight different spices with organic sugar and vanilla bean,” continues Tania, “It’s brewed overnight for full flavour.”
While perched up on my window seat chair, sipping on the rest of my drink, I noticed a constant stream of customers flowing in. Having only started in August last year, this café is popular. Not only that, but also most of the customers ordered Chai Lattes, or other various non-coffee beverages. It’s as if Melbournians are replacing their coffee binges with these sweet, decaffeinated drinks.
A little stroll away from the CBD’s Melbourne Central, Raw Trader follows in not only this healthy ‘raw’ movement, but also their popular Chai Lattes.
Hidden away on Sutherland St, their quaint, isolated location makes their discovery all the more exciting. The concrete flooring with their rough, wooden crate feature wall and their small, metal caged lighting made the word ‘raw’ come to life.
This is demonstrated in their Chai Latte as well – simple, core ingredients used well. Their beautiful black tea mixture with its delicate cinnamon spice and dairy milk created a beautifully warm blend, which the tea can now be sold due to its popularity.
However you are not limited to simple dairy milk. “Chai Latte with almond milk in the most popular drink,” says Sophie, a Raw Traders worker, “you can choose from almond, soy, normal cows milk or nut milk.”
For a café that only began late July last year, they have already noted the increase trend in Chai Lattes, both across Melbourne and in their own secluded store, “it’s hidden away for something so central” says Sophie.
But Raw Trader’s remote location doesn’t stop customers coming in, as people are wanting the healthier option, and not just in their constantly changing sweets like their special lemon and green tea cheesecake or their ice vo-vo. This includes choosing Chai Lattes over regular coffee, with reduced caffeine and beneficial anti-oxidants of the black tea.
For a café that is tucked away in the emptiness of Drewery Lane, Little Rogue is a treasure. It’s warm, cottage styled exterior with its faded red brick walls and large windows was like my own personal invite. When you open that bright blue door, a sea of quirk and personality embraces you, from it’s unique glass bottle pulley to keep the entrance door shut, to the lion beanie hanging on the cardboard moose on the wall.
Little Rogue has limited seating with its three little tables and its windowsill bench, but it’s alternative, unstructured seating appeals to its quirkily adorned charm. Not only is this appeal in their décor, but their perfectly designed Chai Lattes shows that little bit of quirk with crumbs of cinnamon sugar cookies sprinkled on top of the latte’s fluffy froth rather than it’s traditional powder.
The silkiness of the Chai Latte was enough to win me over. It had a perfect balance of spice and sweetness, a spice that left a warm, tingling sensation dancing on my tongue. The crunch of the cookie crumbs heavily accented the velvety latte with the perfect temperature of milk, which gave those spices the best delivery.
Like all the other cafés, Little Rogue was established last year, and as it seems, at the rise of Chai Lattes within Melbourne. With Chai Latte’s considerable body and flavour in its taste, the stronger and bolder flavours of spice give you a more natural energising “kick.”
Chai Latte, a natural, and seemingly popular coffee substitute, something that might drastically change Melbourne’s current coffee culture.