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Arts & Culture

Around the World in 6 Hot Drinks: Chai, Matcha, Mate and More

Written by Christina CampodonicoPublished Jan. 04, 2023 • 12:45pm
David Rio's Chai Bar in Mid-Market serves up a variety of chai-based hot drinks. | Courtesy David Rio

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This week’s very wet and wintry days may have you longing to sip on something steamy. You can’t go wrong with hot chocolate. But if you’re yearning to add some variety to your warm beverage routine, might we suggest a piping pot of chai? How about a gourd of yerba mate?

The beauty of living in an international city like San Francisco is that there is never any shortage of global flavors to sample. Here’s where you can find some hot drinks with international origins—without having to hop on a plane.

La Torta Gordo’s champurrado (bottom right) with pan dulce, or Mexican sweet bread | Courtesy La Torta Gordo

Champurrado

Mission

La  Espiga de Oro 
📍 2916 24th St. 
☎️ (415) 826-1363
🔗 facebook.com/pages/La-Espiga-De-Oro

La Torta Gordo
📍 2833 24th St.
🔗(415) 642-9600

Casa de la Condesa
📍 2763 Mission St.
☎️ (415) 829-3300
🔗 casa-de-la-condesa.square.site

This traditional Mexican atole drink (a hot corn or masa beverage) made with water or milk and mixed with chocolate, piloncillo or panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) and sometimes cinnamon, anise seed or vanilla, is a popular wintertime drink south of the border typically consumed around Las Posadas. 

A precursor to hot chocolate born out of Aztec and Mayan cultures, you can find this thick and chocolatey drink at a handful of spots in the Mission, including La Espiga de Oro, La Torta Gordo and Casa de la Condesa. Calle 24 Latino Cultural District has put together a nice mini-tour of local spots if you’d like to go on an excursion.   

Turkish Coffee 

Inner Sunset

Golden Bear Trading Company
📍 1401 Sixth Ave.
☎️ (415) 664-5574
🔗 goldenbeartrading.com

Known for its baklava, Golden Bear Trading Company’s other signature beverage is Turkish coffee with beans sourced from in and around Ethiopia. You can drink its blend of coffee with cardamom the traditional way (served black or black with sugar) or Western-style with a spot of cream or cream and sugar.  

David Rio’s Chai Bar serves up premium chai teas at its Mid-Market cafe. | Courtesy David Rio

Chai

Mid-Market

Chai Bar 
📍 1019 Market St. 
☎️ (415) 865-0677
🔗 chaibarsf.com

You don’t have to cross an ocean to experience the sweet and bold flavors of masala chai, a signature drink of India. SF-based premium chai tea brand David Rio has a cafe on Market that serves up chais named after animals and infused with honey, espresso, turmeric, vanilla, ginger and more. One drink, the PB & Chai, even comes with a chocolate peanut butter cup.  

Yemeni-Style Coffees & Chais 

SoMa 

Delah Coffee House 
📍 370 Fourth St. 
☎️ (415) 377-2444
🔗 @delahcoffeehouse

Now expanding to the East Bay, SoMa-born cafe Delah Coffee House is on a mission to introduce Yemeni-style coffee culture to the greater Bay Area. Delah’s signature beverages include the Adeni Chai brewed with cream and spices and Yemeni latte with cardamom, cinnamon and honey. If you decide to sip on-site, Delah’s coffees and teas are served in elegant glass and metal tea pots and coffee carafes family style.

Matcha 

Mission

Stonemill Matcha 
📍 561 Valencia St.
☎️ (415) 796-3876
🔗 stonemillmatcha.com

San Francisco’s premium matcha cafe, Stonemill Matcha offers a variety of matcha-based lattes to warm you up. You can choose to take your matcha–powdered green tea with origins stretching back to China and Japan–with black sesame or ginger or double down on green tea flavors with a Hojicha (roasted green tea) latte of milk and cane sugar. 

Yerba Mate

Mission | Downtown | Redwood City

Venga Empanadas 
📍 443 Valencia St. 
☎️ (415) 552-5895

📍 50 Minna St. at Salesforce Transit Center
☎️ (415) 800-7312

📍 822 Main St., Redwood City 
☎️ (650) 549-8932
🔗 vengaempanadas.com

Yerba mate, a South American tea made made from the dried leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, was a little harder to track down, but we did find a few places where you could imbibe a yerba mate latte or beer. Find a tea-like latte-style brew of yerba mate at Cafe Buenos Aires or a pipping hot traditional version of the drink at one of Venga Empanadas’ San Francisco locations.

If you’re looking to make your own, you can buy the ingredient in bulk at San Francisco Herb Company.   

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Christina Campodonico can be reached at [email protected]


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