By Sukaina Jamil
Forget having to settle for those watered-down, sugary concoctions that chain cafés pass off as “chai tea". If you’re a fan of authentic chai, inspired by South-Asian flavours and steeping techniques, there’s a new place in Toronto that will cater to your cravings.
Elchi Chai shop is a family run business, co-owned by sisters Sayyeda and Sukaina Ebrahim. After years of research and hard work, the shop opened its doors to customers in May 2017.
Sayyeda says the inspiration behind their business was simple: there was a shortage of places in Toronto to get authentic Indian chai, and both sisters felt there was a strong market for it.
“We love our chai,” said Sayyeda, seated at a table with a glass of water in hand. “There’s nothing this creamy and rich out here. We actually travelled a couple years ago and there are a lot of chai shops in the East, in Dubai, in the UK - there’s plenty of them and they’re doing really well, so it was just a matter of time that somebody did that here.”
With the help of Sukaina, who also works as an interior designer, the sisters aimed to design their shop so that it had a look that would suit current trends on social media. With the menu written out on brown parchment paper and graphics describing different spices in the drinks alongside a white bar with sleek tiling underneath, Elchi Chai shop carries the attractive aesthetic of the unconventionally hip.
But enough about the place, let’s talk about what we’re all really here for: the chai. Elchi Chai Shop offers four different types of chai, all made in-house from a strong, premium Kenyan blend, infused with spices roasted by the sisters themselves.
Customers are given a variety of options, from the simple “Elchi Chai”, consisting of black tea, milk and cardamom (aka elchi), or the more popular drink “Masala Chai”, which is black tea and milk simmered with cardamom, fresh ginger, cloves and peppercorn. There is also an option for those who want a stronger dose of caffeine. “Dirty Chai” is their masala chai with a shot of espresso, and for anyone who isn’t a fan of dairy, the “Black Masala Chai” comes without milk alongside the added option of an alternative milk.
They also have specialities, including the popular “Elixir” drink that is perfect for anyone dealing with a nasty cold this time of year. A herbal remedy of cloves, cinnamon, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric and more provide a spicy way to clear up an otherwise annoying cough.
Aside from drinks, the shop offers snacks including chai cookies, samosas, kebab balls and a variety of other foods. For those interested in heartier meals or delicious desserts, their homemade parathas are paired with savoury or sweet pairings in order to satisfy any craving.
With almost five months since their doors opened, Sayyeda says it’s been a positive experience with nothing but good feedback so far. In the future, they hope to expand and open more stores as well as begin to sell their tea in grocery stores.
Elchi Chai Shop offers a student discount of 10% with proof of enrolment in a post-secondary school.
For more information, visit their websitehere, or contact them at 416-551-7864