The coffee drinkers of the world are creatures of habit - they have their coffee-milk combination set in stone and when at brunch, will spout out their coffee order even before glancing at the menu. As a non-coffee drinker, the phrase "can I get you started with any coffees" as I'm sitting down at the brunch table fills me with irrational, low-level panic as I riffle through the menu to the drink section.
My preferred drink order would be a chai tea, by which I mean a good chai tea - brewed with actual chai spices in frothed milk, finished with a touch of honey. We are not talking about chai lattes which are brewed from a powder in a box, or the chai teas which are essentially water and a tea bag. There is an art to picking these good chai tea's out of a cafe menu - it's usually a good sign when "chai tea" is separated from the rest of the tea bag selection, the words "brewed" or "sticky" usually seem to hold promise.
For me, the chai tea and Kafeine in Balmain is the clear winner. First off - it comes in a saucepan and (after trying their version) I do strongly feel that all real chai tea should come in a saucepan. Kafeine is also the home of a respectable brunch menu as well as delectable little pastries.
260 Darling Street Balmain, NSW Monday to Friday 6:30-4pm Saturday to Sunday 7am-4pm www.kafeine.com.au
Luxe bakery Luxe used to have a branch on Missenden Rd Newtown which was perfect for all your gourmet sandwich needs (but that has since closed and now it has shopfronts in Barangaroo, Miranda and Bondi). For a bakery, I am told the coffee is spectacular and more importantly their take away chai tea is made such that it still has a little kick of spice that punches through the frothed milk - delicious!
3 Williams - Redfern
3 Williams on Elizabeth St is a popular haunt for hipster brunch and known for their Instagrammable food. The cafe itself has a converted warehouse feel and there are enough seats that the meal is less of a hurried affair with foodies lining up waiting for your table. They also brew a respectable chai tea, which is smooth and full of flavour.