I have a habit of wandering through the quiet downtown in Vancouver, Washington on weekday afternoons as a favored form of easy exercise on almost any day it isn’t raining. I have come across various unexpected treasures in the surprisingly sleepy area. Often considered a suburb of its neighbor to the south–Portland, Oregon–Vancouver tends to be a little more on the subdued side. Yet every now and then it has the ability to surprise me. One such instance is a small, local coffee roaster that has only two cafe locations, one in Portland and the other in Vancouver. I occasionally check cafes out to see what kind of tea they offer and how they serve it (and once disappointed, order a dry cappuccino).

Imagine my surprise when I found that Compass Coffee Roasting has its own in-house chai! I absolutely had to order it. I asked the barista ringing me up about it, and he explained that they used to offer three kinds of in-house, but now have only the one and another two that are externally sourced. He expressed some regret over this fact, as it was his opinion that the external ones simply did not stand up.

I ordered mine with almond milk and then waited as it was prepared. After a final sprinkle of cinnamon on top–which the barista confided helps round out the flavor–my ceramic mug was returned to me. I was surprised to find it a quite traditional chai. It was extremely sweet to my tastes, but I find all chai to be that way so I can’t be a fair judge on the matter.

The initial flavors that hit me were ginger and the cinnamon from the topping. The inclusion of lemon peel helps give it a citrusy sweet pep that plays well with the ginger. I found that it had a pleasant but not overwhelming bite to it.

The initial flavor on the tip of the tongue is nothing but sweet and creamy, with a pleasing aroma of cardamom and coriander when it hits the palate. I found it to have a pleasantly lingering spice on the tongue, with the anise gently balancing out the pepper.

They had two lonely bags for sale on a shelf in the cafe. Yet when I checked their website, despite one article written about their chai in 2016 (when they still had three), I didn’t find any information about it. Nor did I find it for sale on the website, only coffee. So this particular local treat will sadly have to stay just that: local. But if you ever find yourself in either Portland or Vancouver and are a fan of traditional chai, keep this one in mind!

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