Coffee & Tea

Portland’s 10 Best Chais

Where to find warm, fragrant comfort in a cup.

By Zoe Baillargeon

No need to reach for that generic carton of mass-produced chai concentrate. Just head to any number of local Portland cafes and you’ll find a chai that’s either true to its roots or an inventive riff on this black tea classic. Originating in India and meaning “tea” in Hindi, chai has found a natural home in the cozy-beverage-loving world of the Pacific Northwest, where the overcast days and cloudy skies provide the perfect atmosphere for a steaming cup of this rich, aromatic drink. From Indian and Nepalese food carts serving up traditional brews to trendy cafes slinging their own unique blends, here’s where to get your hands on some of the best chai Portland has to offer. 

Pip's Original Doughnuts & Chai 

Find unique chai blends alongside Pip's famous mini doughnuts.

Ask a Portlander where to find good chai and this Fremont staple will likely be among the top of the list. Equally beloved for its miniature doughnuts, Pip’s selection of small-batch chai explores and expands on traditional chai, from the Heart of Gold with its notes of toasted coconut to the gingery Smokey Robinson. While the cafe’s famous chai flights are temporarily unavailable, you can purchase ready-made bottles of Pip’s five chai concentrates as part of the Community Chai program, proceeds of which support local small businesses and social justice organizations. “Hospitality and community are so important to us ... and fresh donuts and chai embody that,” says co-owner Nate Snell. 4759 NE Fremont St, C, @pipsoriginal

The Great North

This St. Johns neighborhood cafe draws you in with tasty breakfast sandos and a minimalist, National Forest-inspired aesthetic, but you’ll keep coming back for the chai. The house blend  combines Jasmine Pearl Assam tea with traditional spices for a perfectly harmonized drink that’s especially good with almond milk or an added espresso shot for a Dirty Chai. Bulk bottles are also available. Plus, there’s now a new outpost across the Columbia in Vancouver. 7373 N Burlington Ave. and 602 N Devine Rd, @thegreatnorthcoffee 


Take home a bottle of the Ginger Spice Chai to recreate the Either/Or café experience at home.

The ginger-heavy chai from cafe-meets-wine-bar Either/Or is sure to give you the right kick to start off your day. Aromatic and striking, the Ginger Spice Chai comes courtesy of sister company Tanglewood Beverage Company, which makes this signature blend with fresh ginger, brown sugar, lemon juice, and organic Assam tea and spices. You can also purchase bottles of the concentrate to make at home. 4003 N Williams Ave and 8235 SE 13th Ave Ste 2, @eitherorcafe

Tea Chai Te 

With multiple locations around Portland, purveyor of quality loose-leaf teas and kombucha Tea Chai Te is also a chai heavy-hitter. The diverse selection of chais explores entire flavor realms, experimenting with added ingredients like yerba mate or vanilla rose, as well as traditional masala chai prepared with Assam tea, tea, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, and star anise. Try the chai in latte or tea form, and you can also take home loose-leaf blends of your faves. 616 E Burnside St, 7983 SE 13th Ave, 734 NW 23rd Ave, and 3917 N Mississippi Ave, @teachaite 

Wildwood Chai

If you prefer your chai on the spicy side, the Wildwood Chai at Dragonfly Coffee House in NW Portland should definitely be on your radar. Black, white, and cayenne peppers give the house chai a zesty kick for a more fiery interpretation. 2387 NW Thurman St, @dragonflycoffeehouse and @wildwoodchai

Ovation Coffee & Tea

Caramelized honey crystals set the Moroccan Chai apart from the pack.

Bringing the flavors of Morocco to Oregon, Karter Elhabbassi and his family’s Ovation Coffee & Tea has been a Pearl District fixture since 2013. Smooth and with a well-balanced blend of traditional and Morrocan spices, the Moroccan Chai tends more toward the sweet side thanks to the addition of caramelized honey crystals, sprinkled on the foamy top for a slightly crunchy, candied first sip. 941 NW Overton St, 3730 S Bond Ave, and 17510 SW Provost St, @ovationpdx 

Momo House 

Specializing in Indian and Tibetan dishes and beverages, this Hollywood District food cart offers a creamy, wonderfully-balanced traditional chai. Prepared with Darjeeling tea, whose sweet undertones don’t overpower the spices and herbs, it’s equally enjoyable served iced or piping hot. 5235 NE Sandy Blvd, @momohouse.pdx

Bollywood Theater

Made with fresh Indian Assam black tea, cloves, green cardamom, ginger, black pepper, and other spices direct from India, Bollywood Theater and The Reluctant Trading Experiment’s authentic Masala Chai practically has its own cult following. Reluctant Trading Experiment founder Scott Eirinberg and chef Troy MacLarty work closely with their partner Mr. Divakar on the ground in India to source the best ingredients possible. You can pick up steaming cups of this robust, richly-aromatic chai at either of Bollywood’s two locations or grab a can of loose-leaf for at-home preparation and enjoyment.  3010 SE Division St and 2039 NE Alberta St, @bollywoodtheaterpdx

Sherpa Nirvana Momo

Milky and fragrant, the home-made chai at this NE 42nd Avenue Himalayan food cart is exactly what chai should be: comforting, simple, and feel-good. Sipping it, you can almost imagine sitting in a Nepalese teahouse looking up at the Himalayas, although in this case, Mount Hood will make do. Available hot or iced. 5427 NE 42nd Ave, @sherpanirvanamomo

Tiffin Asha

Subtle and creamy, Tiffin Asha’s house chai always hits the spot. Devoted to introducing diners to the flavors of South India, owners Sheila Bommakanti and Elizabeth Golay use Nilgiri tea from the state of Tamil Nadu for their chai base, brewing the tea with whole milk, brown sugar, and spices. A vegan version is also on offer. 1670 NE Killingsworth St, @tiffinasha

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