Chai lattes are scrumptious year round, but the impending cold weather makes a hot tea drink sound even more enticing. A chai latte is a drink prepared with steamed milk and (most often) spiced tea concentrate. In other words, it is the Americanized companion of Indian masala chai.
Traditional masala chai involves boiling tea and spices in a mixture of water and milk. Many spice combinations exist, but recipes can include spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove and fennel, to name a few.
So, let’s say you’ve studied abroad in India on Sandra Looney’s legendary J-term course and you’re now hunting for the nectar of the gods found in small terracotta cups on the streets of Varanasi. Or maybe you just love a good chai latte.
If you are a chai latte lover like myself, you might be curious as to where you might purchase the best chai latte in Sioux Falls. Well, search no longer一I’ve done the homework and scoured the city for you.
- Caribou Coffee
The worst chai latte I have ever had, unfortunately. This drink was sickly sweet and, weirdly, excessively spicy—I tasted cinnamon and clove. I will say that it was a nice consistency, though. 0/10. Literally would never purchase this again.
- Bagel Boy
This chai latte was pretty lackluster, too. It was way too sugary and watery, but I did order it with skim milk, so that could have been my own fault. I tasted faint cinnamon and a potential note of honey, but no spices. 1/10. By all means, grab your usual Sausage Breakfast Boy, but seek alternatives for that morning chai latte.
- Starbucks Coffee
I was pleasantly surprised by this drink, though it still wasn’t fabulous. It was very sweet, but not ridiculously so. I almost tasted a balance between the sugar and the spice, but not quite. The consistency was a middle ground. I again tasted some faint honey. 3/10. If I were you, I’d still rather go to a place with a better recipe, and let’s face it—Starbucks never spells your name right anyway.
- Queen City Bakery
This place gets its name from its fabulous bakery, but how is its chai lattes? Subpar. The one I tried tasted extremely tea-y, like the barista just steeped a chai tea bag and mixed in warm milk—which makes for a thin and bland finished product. That’s definitely not how you make a chai latte. 4/10. Stick to baked goodies, Queen City.
- Josiah’s Coffeehouse, Cafe & Bakery
Josiah’s is the ultimate brunch spot, and a chai latte is the perfect breakfast companion—when done right. This chai latte was pleasantly foamy, milky and not too sweet. There was a disappointing lack of spices, though. 4/10. It’s still worth getting, but I’d suggest a regular latte or one of its signature smoothies. Oh, and be sure to grab a jumbo muffin on your way out.
- Scooters Coffee
This was the most flavorful chai latte so far. It had a great consistency, was sweet and slightly nutty. Scooters’ website says its chai latte is a mix of “milky green tea, cinnamon, clove, orange blossom and ginger.” I tasted sugar and extra-faint peanut butter. 5/10. E for effort, I guess?
- Panera Bread
Are you as surprised as I was? Panera serves excellent dirty chai-esque drinks. These have a bit more spice, though nothing too crazy, and maybe half a shot of espresso. Not close to your traditional chai, but something a little different than the too-sweet drinks I’d tried. 7/10. Pro tip: they also have excellent chocolate chip cookies.
- The Source
The chai latte I had at The Source was pretty good. It had some spicier notes and was a medium consistency, but a little too foamy. The foam was cool at first, but I got sick of it after a bit, even though I did get beautiful tulip latte art in my cup. This drink was sweet enough but balanced out well with the spices. 8/10. The Source might just become your new source for a quality chai.
I will be the first to say that I am not a huge fan of Coffea. Its smalls are ridiculously small and its coffee is insanely bitter—But I will credit it for concocting an absolutely killer chai latte. It had a thinner consistency than some others I favored, but it was the perfect amount of sweet. As a bonus, Coffea uses Sattwa Chai, a company that specially picks and microbrews its concentrate after its founders fell in love with the flavors on the streets of India. 9/10. Still not as great as the real thing, but as close as one can get in Sioux Falls.
Not to be that “nothing in America is as good as it was abroad” person, but I think chai is one thing people are allowed to be picky about. A traditional masala chai is amazing, but a chai latte can really hit the spot, too. Choose wisely.