Chow Town

Where to find the perfect cup of chai in Kansas City

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series on the exploration of chai — what it is, where to find it in Kansas City and how to make it at home.

I stumbled out the door onto Third Avenue bleary-eyed but packed and ready for a weekend away with friends. I had an hour to get to Penn Station and catch a bus to Boston — just enough time to grab a hot beverage from Starbucks on my way to the subway.

I remembered my friend Al said Starbucks served a good chai. So on that morning, feeling brave, I ordered my first hot chai latte. I thought the milk would soothe my upset stomach. But the sugar-laden chai only heightened my sensitivity to smell and made me, who frequently gets car sick, nauseous the entire three-hour bus ride to Boston. I got off that bus and swore off chai for years.

What I didn’t know at the time was that chai was from a concentrate. But lucky for us in Kansas City there are a number of local cafes and restaurants serving chai not from concentrate, but from loose-leaf tea and dried spices.

Kate Blackman, barista trainer at Parisi Coffee finds commercial chai concentrates too sweet. That’s why Blackman, along with Pete Licata, quality assurance manager and 2013 World Champion Barista, created a custom chai recipe with loose-leaf tea, spices, a house-made syrup of honey and palm sugar, and steamed milk. The freshness from the spices with the hint of sweetness makes this chai a standout.

Parisi Coffee has a cafe at the Union Station, 30 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City, and at 5245 W. 116th Place, Leawood.

Here are three more places that top my list in Kansas City for an outstanding cup of chai:

Little Freshie, 811 W. 17th St., Kansas City

Using local purveyor Stephen Bushman’s chai blend, Little Freshie serves a light, flavorful hot chai latte with notes of honey. Bushman owns Chaipod, described on Twitter as a mobile chai vendor in Kansas City.

Seva Indian Cuisine, 8674 N.E. Flintlock Road, Kansas City

Memories of hospitality, ritual and tradition were a common thread in everyone I spoke to about chai. Always on the house at Seva Indian Cuisine near Liberty, the chai is about hospitality. Seva’s chai is a blend of tea granules, or cured leaves of the tea plant, and spices simmered with milk and served hot and creamy. It’s always a perfect ending to an excellent meal at Seva.

The Teahouse Coffeepot, 4309 Jefferson St., Kansas City

Keith Buchanan, tea wallah and owner of The Teahouse Coffeepot in Westport, uses ingredients from local international markets to make his version of a very delicious chai. The house-made chai blend simmers for two hours with jaggery, a brick-shaped sugar popular in Asia and Africa that sweetens the chai. In the cold months of winter I like my chai served hot with steamed milk. But over ice, The Teahouse Coffeepot chai is a refreshing drink come the long days of summer.

to make it at home.

Raised by generations of cooks, farmers and green thumbs, Andrea Shores is an enthusiastic eater and curious cook. She loves sharing her passion for local food by telling farmers’ and food purveyors’ stories.