The other day I learned that the word ‘chai’ translates to tea. Which means when Columbia students make a mad dash to Liz’s Place, Joe’s, Starbucks, etc. before class to order a chai tea latte, they are actually asking for a ‘tea tea’ latte. This blew my mind, and not in a good way. Apparently, the correct terminology for that spicy drink that manages to warm my sleep deprived soul during the infamous NYC winter is ‘masala chai’. Until the coffee shops catch up on their Hindu, however, I guess Columbians will be calling it ‘chai tea’ too. WARNING: we sound silly.

Naturally, all this thinking about chai made me thirsty for a cup (or two…or three). In my search, I found several great spots to sip scattered around MoHi. Here’s a list of my favorite chai latte spots for different occasions below:

1. The Convenient Chai

Coffee shop tour of NYC. Iced chai from Joe's.

A photo posted by Nicole DiMascio (@nicole_dimascio) on

Joe’s Coffee is by far the most convenient and high-quality chai tea latte you can find on campus. If you don’t mind paying the price attached to such close proximity, Joe’s is a great option for when you’re in a bind time-wise. I like to stop for a motivating treat before heading to NoCo, especially during midterm season. Taking a sip of Joe’s steamed milk is like tasting a cloud. Another perk is that Joe’s can make your chai latte with almond or soy milk if preferred. Good luck finding a seat, but if you manage to, it’s such a fun space to do homework or chat with a friend thanks to its modern, window-centric style. Be sure to ask for a punch card!

2. The Bang For Your Buck Chai


Photo by Katie Russell

So, we all know MUJI for selling sleek, refillable pens, but who knew they sold instant chai tea mix? All you have to do is add hot water. At $5, one package of MUJI Chai Tea mix will last you through 4 – 5 cups of tea, making this the most affordable option by far (i.e. $1 per 8 fl. oz of deliciousness). The other great aspect of this tea? You can have it in the comfort of your dorm. Next time a blizzard decides to show up at your door, you don’t have to live chai tea free. Who knew there was delicious, Swiss Miss style chai tea? You can order it online here.

3. The Hipster Chai

Smooth as Chai.? #smoothsunday #lovelyweather #whenthehurricaneisgone

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Kuro Kuma is a hole in the wall, eight seat neighborhood coffee shop on Broadway (near 125th). It gives off some serious Brooklyn vibes and is the type of shop where you will always see familiar faces behind the counter. The baristas seem to be on first-name basis with many of their customers which is quite a refreshing change of pace. Their chai latte consists of a velvety texture and classic flavor which, when paired with one of their spectacular Balthazar pastries, is especially good. Make sure to bring cash and ask for a punch card!

4. The Hidden Gem Chai

pretty much

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Double Dutch Espresso, though technically in Harlem, is just a 10-minute walk from campus. It is one of my favorite spots to escape the Columbia bubble without even catching the 1 train. From the people who brought us Lenox Coffee, Double Dutch offers high-quality treats from NYC institutions such as Counter Culture, Balthazar bakery, and Ovenly. Their chai tea hits the spot, especially the dirty kind. All of Double Dutch’s tea, including their dynamic chai, is sourced from Rishi, one of the most respected organic tea rooms in NYC. Double Dutch is the greatest spot to buckle down for a few hours and study. They have a soothing hippie aesthetic inside, as well as a garden that is open during the summer months. You will feel worlds away from Butler. Whereas many of the coffee shops on this list have exceptional pastries, Double Dutch goes the extra mile by having exceptional food. Not only can you get a crispy Belgium waffle, but also a warm sandwich. If you’re looking for somewhere to spend a day with yourself and a couple chai’s, this is the go-to for you.