Seeking chai drink in Tokyo

A day in the life of Tokyo college student

Zipair, a low-cost airline connecting Tokyo (Narita) with Asian countries and other destinations, also added flights to Los Angeles last January (2022).  However, compared to Bangkok (from 17,000 yen) and Singapore (from 18,000 yen), it is still expensive for students to go.  I have friends who want to travel abroad but don’t have enough money saved up for airfare to the U.S. or Europe, so they go on Asian trips instead.  I am sure this is one of the reasons why I have a growing yearning for Asia.  And it is now becoming my hobby to visit Asian restaurants.

One Asian drink that is gaining more and more attention in Japan is “chai.”  Chai is a tea with unique spices, and I have been addicted to it for around five years.  Whenever I go to a cafe, I look for it on the menu, and at Starbucks, I order a chai tea latte (without ice, with more milk, preferably soy milk), even if there is a limited edition flavor.  So this time, I would like to tell you about my favorite delicious chai drinks in Tokyo.

In many countries, including Russia and Turkey, the word chai means “tea,” and the most famous of them is a drink made by boiling black tea leaves with milk and adding sugar, which originated in India.  When I hear the word “chai,” I imagine something spiced (just like a Starbucks chai tea latte).  Still, I first learned that basic Indian chai does not contain spices at a restaurant called “chai break” in Kichijoji, Tokyo, near Inokashira Park, one of Tokyo’s most famous parks.  At Chai Break, when you order a set of “Extra rich-brewed milk tea (770 yen)” and a muffin, you are allowed to choose one from about six different kinds of muffins.  My favorite was the sweet potato one.  The sweet potato one is sweet but not too sweet, with ricotta cheese as a secret ingredient, and goes very well with the rich tea with lots of added sugar.  Please give them a try.

In Nepal, chai is called “Chiya,” and if you are in the mood for Nepalese tea in Tokyo, I recommend “CHIYA-BA” in Nakameguro.  The restaurant is dimly lit and has a sophisticated and relaxing atmosphere with a pleasant aroma of spices and incense, and the U-shaped sofas in the back are soft and comfortable, making it a good place for a date.  I ordered the masala chai and soi chai, both of which were served iced and tasted refreshing without being sweet.  I can’t really put into words what it was, but I preferred the soi.

There are many more places I would like to introduce, but that’s enough for this time.  As I was writing this, I remembered that the reason I first fell in love with the drink was probably because of the delicious chai my mom made for me.  She always says, “Mom’s chai is the best,” and it was indeed very tasty when I asked her to brew it for the first time in a long time.  I think I must have been influenced by many other things without realizing it.

What are your favorite tastes influenced by?

Sawa:Writer living in Tokyo, Japan / Waseda University student