Every summer a must thing that I do with my family is plan a weekend visit to NYC. Its a little escape from DMV area. Okay…. Yes I AM one of those people who love the urban jungle and the city vibes. What can I tell you? I grew up in the biggest city of Pakistan, called Karachi which is the 7th largest city and urban population in the world, currently bustling with 16.62 million people. So the quiet suburbs of Maryland sometimes become… well too quite. This time the plan was a little different. My best friend who is originally from New York and now lives in Maryland was visiting her parents in New York and so we decided to meet up with her and then another friend of mine also decided to join us. So with this spontaneous program we decided to meet each other and have a crazy fun filled weekend in NYC. I always go to the same places; The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and ofcourse Times Square. So this time, my idea was to visit places that we have not been to. My friend suggested we should hit Soho area in lower Manhattan and check out this cute little Pakistani tea place called ‘The Chai Spot’ . Upon looking up and finding more about the spot with a quick Instagram search, we were all game for it. Just like in United States no one works and sustain without coffee, Pakistanis do not work and sustain without tea. I am not talking about the usual chamomile tea, which is intended to put one to sleep. The south asian ‘Chai’ is actually black tea, as strong as coffee and full of caffeine, prepared in different ways in different parts of Pakistan.
As we enjoyed our walk in lower Manhattan area, we were not disappointed when we arrived at ‘The Chai Spot’ nestled among other restaurants. The truck art is familiar to me as I grew up seeing this kind of truck art all over the public transportation, i.e. trucks, lorries, rickshaws and public buses in Karachi. Those eyes that were drawn on the spot are usually drawn at the back of the truck with a funny couplets, or an important message written which would never failed to amuse anyone who is driving and is stuck behind those trucks in a traffic jam. The colorful sitting bamboo stools and the vibe reminded me of home. As we entered we were greeted by even more truck art.
The place is owned by a Balochi woman Khalida Barohi and her husband David Barron. I think I spotted David at the front desk with some other people who work there, as we ordered our chai(tea) and got busy taking more pictures. The chai menu had some unusual choices. The Chais made here are like the one I am accustomed to drinking, but with some interesting twists. I ordered for myself a coconut rose chai. As we went inside we were welcomed by the traditional floor seating arrangement. Ofcourse, we had to take off our shoes, just like any other Pakistani household, the place has the tradition; and we sat on the corner. The room was not that lit, but there was enough light to create a cool ambiance, with beautiful cushions on the floor and on the wall. The place was very easy going and eclectic. It was like a Starbucks with more Pakistani touch! One can sit at any corner with the laptop and a cup of chai with some cookies to go with it and work away, or curl up in the corner to read a book. I also spotted a basket of yoga mats and assumed that they might also have yoga classes as well. There were 2 bookshelves with books and board games. Our group consisted of atleast 15 people and we took a whole corner of the chai spot. As my chai arrived I could not help but notice a little extra touch as the cups were beautifully decorated with handcrafted ribbons.
As it was out first visit, the server provided us with brochures about the place. As I read more about the philanthropic work that was done by Khalida, with the profite from this place, and could not help but feel pride to know about her courage and her perseverance.
There is a small shop setup inside the Chai Spot with traditional handicraft work that one can easily buy and support her cause. I bought her book , which had her inspirational story. If anyone ever have a chance to visit them in NYC its a must see place. You will always leave after vising with some ‘peace, love and ofCourse some chai’
You can find out more about ‘The Chai Spot’ here
To find out and see who did the gorgeous truck art click here