Few things have truly had as a significant impact on my life as the humble and charming, Chai Tea Latté. Chai introduced itself to me approximately three years ago.
Herewith the 'meet cute' -
Tragically disillusioned by life's virtues and in desperate need for warm, frothy comfort - I had stumbled into some sort of nondescript coffee shop (the name escapes me) one cloudy afternoon in May.
Once I had broken out my tap shoes and Fosse-fabulous routine, I was quite pleased to find that I had successfully managed to capture the waiter's attention. She trundled up to me with supreme indifference and reluctantly queried whether she was required to take my order. I stopped bouncing in my seat and announced that I would like to have a vanilla flavoured latté.
Of course they didn't have it.
“Hazelnut” sez I, without missing a beat. The waitress glowered at me for a brief moment and then delivered the news that they were out of stock of that one as well.
“Cinnamon...no?” “Almon-?” Naturellement.
Suspicions of idiocy were confirmed when the waitress suggested that I opt for toffee. I grunted my disapproval and glared at the menu, willing it to present me with a viable option. That's when that saucy minx caught my eye. Spicy Chai Tea Latté.
So, when the waitress placed the beige-coloured drink in front of me with the joviality of a Russian nihilistic novelist, I eyed it warily and took a tentative sip. It would be an exaggeration to say that I clutched onto the edge of the table and gave Meg Ryan a run for her money – but it was as visceral and life-altering an experience as any other. An explosion of creamy warmth and spice, it tasted like a hug in a cup. I LOVED it.
With coffee culture's slow but sure acceptance of Chai's integration into South African menus, it wasn't long before our romance was rekindled. Since then, though we try to maintain a healthy balance in our relationship, Chai and I would meet again and again. Eventually we had to admit that it was getting serious and Chai moved in with me. It now resides in my cupboard with its Mint-flavoured Chai cousin.
Chai has been there for all the 'big' moments. Especially in my relationship with my fiancé. Through all the silly stories, deep discussions and essential (sometimes earthshaking) epiphanies, Chai was our constant companion. I like to think that the discovery of our mutual love for Chai Tea Lattés formed the foundation of our relationship.
We coincidentally both ordered it on our first date. It became our go-to-drink while coffeebar-hopping (it's a thing now, trust me)and was often centred around as an activity. We would go out for Chai. That's just what we'd do. I believe it might even have been the drink of choice for our reconciliation after our first lovers' tiff.
Weirdly, I feel very possessive of Chai Tea Latté and as much as I would like it to be embraced by others, it irks me that other soon-to-be-wed couples already beat us to the proverbial Chai Wedding Cake alter. Indignantly – and childishly - I feel that we were there first.
Chai's rise to fame does have its perks, though. I recently ascertained that 'Chai Tea' Soft Lips lip balm is now available for purchase. Yes, I bought one and yes, it did introduce a new chapter in my relationship.
With Chai, I mean.
It was also lovely to find that simple recipes for Chai cookie icing not only exists – but has several variants. So, I guess it's rather obvious what our families will be getting this Christmas.
P.S. I think my stomach swallowed my heart when I saw this picture of Chai doughnuts. Such a beautiful union...
P.P.S. I would just like to send a shout-out to Motherland Coffee Co. in Rosebank for their Spicy Chai Latté. It's the best yet.