Gaining precious real estate space on KL café menus is the chai latte, an updated version of the masala chai available on the streets of India and in most Indian restaurants around town. Instead of espresso, the chai latte is made with frothed milk and concentrated spiced tea. The next time you crave chai, here’s where to go.
The best places for chai latte
Speckled with floating spices, the beige-hued chai latte at Yellow Brick Road is made with Australian brand Chai Me, where organic ingredients such as Assam black tea, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and Australian honey are brewed in urns for over four days. Yellow Brick Road make their chai latte with a dose of ginger powder for extra spiciness. The chai is then topped with cinnamon powder (sometimes, you’ll get a stick of cinnamon to stir it with). With a slightly higher milk-to-spice ratio, this light chai is reminiscent of ginger-infused milk.
The presentation of the chai latte is the handsomest of all here at The Forum. A small glass (with a fine mesh strainer balanced atop) and a stainless steel pot of chai (from boutique chai tea company Prana Chai) come served on a wooden board. Fun fact: Prana Chai crushes (instead of grinding like most other brands) and then pan roasts the ingredients for a more complex flavour.
Allow the tea leaves and spices (we spotted cardamom pods, peppercorns, cinnamon bark, star anise and more) to steep in the pot for a few minutes before pouring the contents into the glass through the strainer. With the flavours of the spices unfurling with every sip, the tea is strong, creamy and smooth.
When KL cafés were still making chai lattes from syrups and powders, Stan and Paige from Closer Kitchen & Espresso Bar decided to bring in Prana Chai from Melbourne before there was an official distributor of the brand in KL. Using a natural blend of cloves, ginger, honey and cinnamon, the chai latte made with Prana Chai has a slightly subtle but lingering aftertaste.
Firstly, the chai is steeped in a French press with honey and hot water at 95C to extract the full flavours of the tea. After that, milk is steamed separately to 85C and then added into the chai brew. The chai latte is then served in the French press with a cinnamon stick on the side as a stirrer. Settling warmly in the stomach, this rich, flavourful chai is best nursed on a rainy day.
For a relatively healthier glass of chai latte, Fēst's spin on the hipper masala chai is soy chai. Ditching milk for soy milk, the café's chai has the usual ingredients (cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves, peppercorn, ginger, black Ceylon tea from boutique tea company Prana Chai, honey) but its serving style isn't the usual glass-plonked-on-your-table kind. Similar in presentation to the one at The Forum, Fēst's soy chai comes in a stainless steel pot and an accompanying separate glass with a fine mesh strainer. Allow some time for the tea leaves and spices to steep in the pot for a strong, smooth (and lactose-free) chai. A variation of the chai is also available with a shot of espresso.
Where to go for masala chai
Chai means ‘milk tea’, and masala actually refers to the spices (think cloves, pepper, star anise, cinnamon, ginger and more). Hence masala chai, the spiced, milky, sweetened black tea, is somewhat like teh tarik’s more sophisticated and complex cousin. Order a cup at these places.