Note: Unfortunately, my favourite chai shop in the city, Elchi, closed its doors in 2022.
The chai tea that most of us in North America have grown to know is the stuff that comes in a concentrated sugar pump at Starbucks for our lattes or in a tea bag you buy at your local grocery store or tea shop. Although I admit, I do love this version of chai tea, it isn’t authentic and is nothing like what the real thing tastes like.
A couple of years ago I went to India and had my first taste of the real thing. Steaming hot chai served on every street corner brewed with black tea and a mixture of beautiful spices and herbs with creamy milk. This beverage is said to date back 5,000 years and the mix of cardamom, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and black peppercorns (the most common ingredients) creates a spicy and delicious taste that comforts your soul.
So when I returned back from India with a chai recipe at hand, I was excited to make the authentic, real deal tea at home. A little taste of India in Toronto. However, sadly, I could never get it to taste like what I had back in India. I quickly gave up and just accepted the only way I’d get the real thing is if I returned back to India itself.
When I found out that Toronto was getting an authentic chai shop I was thrilled. I was constantly checking in to see when the cafe would open since I was eager to get my hands on that delicious chai I had back in India right here at home. Elchi Chai Shop located on Habord Street in Toronto finally opened its doors in the neighbourhood in May 2017. Owners and sisters, Sukaina and Sayyeda Ebrahim had grown up drinking chai and eating the flavourful Indian food their mother would cook them. But when they thought about it, they realized it was hard to find that authentic chai anywhere outside of their home. The pair had always talked about making their own cafe but now it is finally a reality.
Elchi serves a variety of hot and cold beverages along with a menu of yummy snacks. They serve three different kinds of chai, lassis, and other delicious beverages like their elixir which is made from a variety of spices. The chai was seriously to die for. I was a little scared that it wouldn’t taste like what I was expecting but the minute I took a sip I was transported back to the busy streets of Delhi. This chai is the real deal and I’m so happy that I’ve found a place close to home where I can have it whenever I want.
Along with their chai, they also have a laundry list of snacks both sweet and salty. Their parotha (think roti meets croissant) can be made with savory toppings like butter chicken, or potato masala, or with sweet toppings like banana and nutella or s’mores. They also have a variety of other snacks like pastries and samosas, and a fun bits n’ bobs menu which is parotha paired with your choice of side dips (I recommend the honey butter and the cookie butter). All the recipes come straight from Sukaina and Sayyeda’s mothers kitchen!
The cafe is built in a residential property with beautiful decor. The furniture is fresh and modern, there are beautiful colourful tiles lining the cash area and there are some fantastic window seats for those looking for a place to get work done and people watch (admit it, everyone loves some good people watching).
I’m so excited to share this great new cafe with you guys because it may just be my new favourite. Small businesses like Elchi are what make Toronto so fantastic and diverse, especially when they’re bringing a taste of their culture to the city. So if you’re in need of some authentic chai, a great cafe to hang out in, or just are looking for something different to try, you should definitely pay Elchi Chai Shop a visit.
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Disclaimer: My experience at Elchi Chai Shop in Toronto was complimentary, however I only write about things that I enjoyed and would recommend to others. All opinions in this piece are my own and 110% honest.