Tuesday Tips : by Sabrina: chai
Forget your Starbucks chai latte, if you want authentic ‘spicy’ tea, head to PamBan in Camden.
As much as I love my PG Tips, I have yet to find somewhere in London that does a good cup of chai reminiscent of the Kashmiri chai I’ve experienced on my trips to Pakistan.
On entering the café I was pleasantly surprised by how big it is. They have outdoor seating, a big communal table, and individual tables for smaller groups, so there really is something for everyone.
The menu is predominantly made up of hot drinks, but this is something that may change as they experiment with more recipes. I decided to order the taste platter in order to get the chance to try a variety of flavours. The taste platter allows you to choose from 3 of their chai flavours, and is presented on an adorable wooden board. The cups are half the size of their full sized chai, and this works pretty well. It allows you to get a taste of the different flavours on offer without committing to one, and at the £5.50 price point, is definitely worth it.
I opted to go for mint, rose and saffron, and here is my verdict on each. In order to give each chai a fair verdict, and to truly get an understanding of the flavours, I didn’t add sugar to any of them.
MINT– I chose this on the barista’s recommendation. It had a pleasant mint taste without being too overbearing or toothpaste esque. As would be expected from a herb, it was slightly bitter, but refreshingly so. The smell of mint hits you as you begin to take your first sip, and I liked how they used fresh mint leaves to decorate the top.
ROSE- This was sweeter than the mint, without being too overbearing.
SAFFRON– On first raise of the cup I was immediately hit with a smell that reminded of Indian sweetmeats. When it came to how it tasted, it definetely wasn’t as sweet and had rather a bitter taste to it. However, the bitterness wasn’t as overpowering as say, a black coffee is. I DID add a hint of sugar to this afterwards, which was a pleasant addition.
One thing I LOVED about this place was the staff. They were just SO friendly. The barista behind the bar was incredibly helpful and patient, and I believe it was the owners who came over to the table to ask what we thought of the chai. They even bought us some extra drinks that we hadn’t ordered, just so we could try out some of their newer recipes.
One of the drinks they brought us was a karak version of the saffron tea I had tasted.
KARAK SAFFRON– a fusion of the saffron chai mentioned above, but made with condensed milk, which gave it a sweeter and creamier flavour. For someone who has a sweet tooth, I loved this one, and when it came down to it, it was between this and the rose as contender for my favourite.
Before I even had a chance to finish my chai, one of the owners brought me a sample of their milkshake jaggery. It was incredibly sweet, but with a nutty flavour, and after a few minutes of trying to place WHY I found the flavour so familiar, I realised that it reminded me of kulfi. I think this would be a good shout on a really hot day for something a bit different.
Overall this is a place I would definitely visit again. I like to make the most of my trips to Camden, and for something that is exclusive to the Stables Market, I wouldn’t shy away from making this my regular Camden coffee house. The authentic use of flavours and good ingredients makes this place unique, and I hope that Pam Ban soon becomes a staple of the Camden coffee house scene.
Chalk Farm Road
London, NW1 8AH