Local establishments top list of offerings for best chai tea

What makes a good chai-tea latte? For me, there has to be the perfect balance of milk to tea and spice that zings every time you take a sip.

Iced or hot, chai is a perfect beverage for someone looking for an alternative to coffee. Chai stands for the Hindi word for “tea” and consists of a mixture of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, anise and black pepper. All of these flavors marry into a sweet tea that can have milk or soy milk added to it for a delightful drink.

With all of the different cafés and coffee shops available to us, there are a lot of options. So, I decided to seek out the best chai in Cedar Falls.

First, I stopped by Cup of Joe in downtown Cedar Falls. This cafe is commonly known by everyone as the place to be if you need to relax and have a nice time. I ordered the normal chai and was pleasantly surprised by the spices and thick foam in the warm mug that was presented to me.

However, Cup of Joe has a wide selection of chai, with variations that are interesting compared to other area coffee shops. The Cup has a chocolate chai, which is a combination of cocoa and a chai latte that is an unexpected good pairing. They also offer a seasonal “hot fluff” chai, which has marshmallow added to it, which makes the chai even more luxurious.

My next stop was Sidecar Coffee Shop on College Hill. This chai was much sweeter than the one from Cup of Joe. It was obvious to me that the barista used quite a lot of milk in this drink, because the chai was thick and creamy. The spices were right on, with a strong flavor of cinnamon. However, the chai came in a cardboard cup, which was slightly off-putting.

I tried out two large chain coffee shops next, starting with Starbucks. I found that the tea to milk ratio in this chai latte was spot on. Unlike some other chai-tea lattes that I tasted, the prominence of tea was strong. There was also a nice blend of spices, perhaps a little weaker compared to the other drinks I tried.

Caribou Coffee was the next chain I visited. I sipped into the cardboard cup and was immediately underwhelmed by the taste. This chai was by far the least appealing because it barely tasted like a chai. Instead of a blend of spices and sweetness, the only taste that came through was an overpowering amount of cinnamon. It made me wonder if Caribou just put some sort of powder into hot water to make it, because the consistency was also grainy compared to the few other drinks that I tried.

In my opinion, the local coffee places offered the best chai-tea latte experiences. I thought that Cup of Joe’s chai was the best tasting, with Sidecar Coffee’s chai following closely behind. The depth of flavor and consistency of the drink, along with the impression that it was a true chai tea latte, made these two winners in my book.

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