Bohemian House of Espresso & Chai in downtown LA is my neighborhood coffee shop. The “chai” in the name drew me in on my walk to work one day. I really feel compelled to try them all. Like many Desi chai aficionados who compare to home ritual, I can offer you spirited takes on “chai,” “chai lattes,” and redundantly named “chai tea” drinks from all over. On that day, I crossed a threshold into a peaceful, light-filled living room, with its vibrant, thriving plant-dwellers, walls that celebrate old cinema and Black artistry, vintage TV’s that must transmit subliminal good vibes, and committed proprietor who somehow hoisted an antique penny farthing cycle on top of the cold case. In this transportive room, I had one of the best chai lattes I’ve ever had in this city. And I’ve just stopped looking elsewhere in these parts.
This chai latte reflects a depth of flavor and history that truly sets it apart. Farah (aka “Blackie”), the personable proprietor, bases the drink in his mother’s Somali chai traditions and makes it with whole spices and CTC Assam tea. The chai latte can be infused with cardamom, cinnamon, or ginger, or any combination thereof. It’s just as delicious iced as it is hot, which is a relief given the hot, summer days we’ve been having in LA, and can be made with non-dairy milk. I’ve also tried the “Dirty Chai,” which has a shot of espresso, and it did just the trick on a tough workday without wiring me mercilessly. And while I’ve waited for my chai latte(s), Blackie has given me samples of his fragrant mint tea and date seed latte, which were both delicious. One day I’ll get that mint tea, if I can somehow persuade myself off the chai.
The drink menu also has a variety of espresso drinks, drip coffee, cold brew, and herbal teas, and proclaims a unique camel milk cortado. A little menu of café eats, including avocado toast and my favorite mixed bean hummus wrap makes for a quick and healthy meal. And I often pick up a drink from the plentiful cold case filled with healthy juices, wellness shots, grab-and-go breakfast items, sparkling water, and kombucha. I’m also looking forward to taking home some of the whole bean African coffees they sell.
Plus Blackie is such a welcoming presence who really puts love and thought into everything that he makes. You know you’re in a coffee shop, but you feel like you’re in a good friend’s home where you’d like to pop in just to chat. It doesn’t take long to notice that Blackie gets to know everyone who comes by. So passionate about fostering human connection in a digital age, that he wrote a book on it. This is how a neighborhood coffee shop should be, and Blackie’s “house” is a testament to the fact that this genial spirit is alive and well in this city.
Bohemian House of Espresso & Chai is located at 548 S Spring St R110, Los Angeles, CA 90013.