Nothing like a strong kick of caffeine to jumpstart one’s body. While coffee is the caffeine vehicle of choice for many, in large swaths of Asia, tea is the standard. Tea, however, has crept into the greater consciousness thanks to chai latte: dominantly milky, sweet with a mild taste of tea. But it brings barely a tickle of caffeine, far from the kick one needs to get through the day.
Let Chai Walay, on the corner of Spring Creek Parkway and Independence Parkway in Plano, make you reconsider that cup of chai. This tiny tea house doesn’t carry the chai lattes you know, but a range of strong and mighty South Asian chai.
Chai Walay has plenty of space to enjoy an afternoon tea.
Their signature regular chai, with a base of strong spiced black tea, is creamy with an ochre hue. It's full-bodied with a sweet and bitter finish. This is the standard, regular chai traditionally served in homes and sold by chaiwallahs, tea makers, across the South Asian subcontinent.
Their Kashmiri chai flipped the chai script for us. This tea is pink. While made with green tea leaves, the magical chemical reaction of the leaves with sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is what turns it pink.
Kashmiri chai (left) and Walay's signature chai (right).
You can certainly buy a box of Kashmiri tea at your local South Asian market, but it's a challenge to make it right. Owner Samina Khan explains it's a painstaking three-hour process to transform this chai. She beamed with pride knowing that customers flock to her shop for this specialty tea. “I get orders of 10, 15 cups at a time!”
This milk tea is softer despite its richness, especially with the crushed nuts mixed in, and is great with dessert or as a digestif.
For those who prefer their tea without milk, there are the Irani and Peshawari teas. The Irani chai is black tea spiced with cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. The Peshawari kahwa, from Peshawar, Pakistan, is a cardamom green tea, grassy and floral and a complement to the fresh growth of spring.
All teas are traditionally served with sugar, but you can always hold off if you prefer.
For now Chai Walay is only open in the evenings.
Also, biscuits are traditionally paired with a cup of chai, and we urge you to indulge here. Chai Walay has other sweet treats, pastries and savory snacks to pair with a cup of chai. The Desi butter biscuits are melt-in-your-mouth good, with a touch of salt to balance the sweetness of the drink. The paratha rolls can be blow-your-socks-off spicy, depending on their filling, but then are mellowed out by the milky chai.
Chai Walay is only open in the evenings for now, following the work-from-home schedules of their largely South Asian clientele. But who says that caffeine kicks are only for mornings? Should you need an extra boost to last you the rest of the day, visit Chai Walay and get that buzz.
Chai Walay, 6300 Independence Parkway (Plano) 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday