‘Tis (almost) the season: A holiday drinks guide

Media Credit: Leah Edwards | Hatchet Photographer

The Masala Chai at Pansaari is a more adventurous alternative to Starbucks' chai latte.

Now that the weather has dipped below 40 degrees, it’s time to snuggle up with some warm drinks. From spicy Indian chai to relaxing Chinese tea rooms and rich hot chocolate, here are some places around D.C. that offer sweet drinks to stay cozy in the winter.

Ching Ching Cha
Tucked between Filomena Ristorante and the waterfront in Georgetown, this tea oasis embodies relaxation and rest. Inside the store sits a small tea room where diners can either drink at tables or lounge on pillows, while tea is served with an emphasis on a minimalist aesthetic. Ching Ching Cha boasts over 40 teas, including the blooming Jasmine tea ($10). Waiters pour hot water over small Jasmine buds, which open to reveal a yellow or reddish-purple flower.

Other options include rose tea ($6) that smells like the flower. Ching Ching Cha also offers daily lunch specials, in which diners can get four dumplings and a pot of passion fruit tea for $8 – a savory and sweet treat. The tearoom is a 20-minute walk from campus, which can make it a refuge during finals when you need to de-stress.

1063 Wisconsin Ave. NW

Ebenezers Coffeehouse
Known for its “coffee with a cause” fair trade coffee, the nonprofit coffee shop Ebenezers also has addictive hot chocolate. It’s served at the ideal temperature – hot but not scalding – and the milk chocolate is rich, creamy and not waxy. Ebenezers tops its cup off with whipped cream and chocolate syrup, making it the perfect sweet drink for cold days.

If you’re still in the fall state of mind, Ebenezers has a beverage menu for the season with choices like apple cider and chai lattes. And if those drinks don’t sell you on Ebenezers, the coffee bar also has free wifi and open mic nights.

201 F St. NE

Media Credit: Leah Edwards | Hatchet Photographer
The Masala Chai at Pansaari is a more adventurous alternative to Starbucks’ chai latte.

This month-old restaurant has a beautiful space just below street level. Pansaari, the Indian word for spice seller, is a chai-bar, herb shop, kitchen and gift store. The cozy interior is decorated with imported Indian tile, wood and furniture, and the staff is willing to share knowledge of teas and Indian dishes.

The Masala Chai ($3) is hot and spicy with cardamom and a special blend of masala (spices like ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon) straight from India. The caffeine gave me a much stronger jolt than a typical Starbucks Chai. If you’re not a fan of spiced drinks and want something more orthodox, they do serve a regular chai – but remember Pansaari prides itself on authenticity, and the drinks will challenge your taste buds.

1603 17th St. NW

The Sweet Lobby
Nestled in Barracks Row across from Eastern Market, The Sweet Lobby has 70 percent pure Belgian hot chocolate to accompany cupcakes and colorful macarons. The hot chocolate with house-made marshmallows – only available in the winter – is thick and syrupy compared to your boxed Swiss Miss blend. Cupcakes and macarons are made fresh daily, and the flavors range from the Cupcake Wars-winning fire-breathing chocolate (mandarin-scented chocolate cake filled with spicy fudge and topped with milk chocolate butter cream) to green tea pistachio (Japanese green tea cake with green tea frosting.)

The hot chocolate I tried was rich and the cupcakes were moist, with fluffy frosting and unique flavors. Topped with a chocolate-covered cherry and buttercream frosting, the chocolate forest cupcake ($2.75) offers more bang for your buck than other cupcake eateries in the Georgetown area. Head over to Eastern Market and prepare for your holiday sweet overload.

404 8th St. SE

The Japanese-themed tea boutique can provide the perfect solution to winter weather – a piping hot cup of tea. The carefully crafted flavors of Teaism make the higher prices worth it.

I sampled Star of Africa ($2.75), and this herbal tea awakened my taste buds with its sweet aroma and fruity, plum taste. Other notable flavors include the $4 Jasmine Pearl tea, which isn’t too strong. Also, if you’re tired of other cinnamon and apple teas, the cinnamon and apricot ($3) is a fresh take on a cinnamon-based tea.

While Teaism doesn’t have the same atmosphere or variety in tea as Ching Ching Cha, it’s winning feature was the free wifi and convenient location. Aside from its spot at 800 Connecticut Ave., the closest shop to campus and across from the White House, Teaism also has locations in Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle.

400 8th St. NW, 2009 R St. NW and 800 Connecticut Ave. NW

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