North Fork Chai

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Joshua Hendrickson and Chelsea Bruce of north fork chai
Joshua Hendrickson and Chelsea Bruce

Sister-brother duo Chelsea Bruce and Joshua Hendrickson have created the perfect—not too spicy, not too sweet—cup of chai. Bruce, a culinary school graduate, had been tinkering with her family’s recipe for years while also honing her skills in pastry. The siblings took their chai concoction to the pop-up circuit to see if they had hit on a winner before making the leap and opening NORTH FORK CHAI, a small tea and coffee shop in their hometown of Newcastle.

The idea to build a craft chai company came to Hendrickson as he was walking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. “I wanted to do something different and no one else was doing chai,” he says. Bruce had been thinking about the idea for more than 20 years. It made sense for the pair to stay in Newcastle, where their roots go back to the fruit rush of the 1920s and where they have inherited farmland.

It’s a true family affair. Bruce, the oldest of five kids, handles the kitchen while Hendrickson, the middle child and a coffee lover, is the lead barista; two of their brothers also pitch in. They brew the chai concentrate in-house and bake all the pastries from scratch. New varieties of chai are always in the works, such as coconut chai, a golden chai made with turmeric, and seasonal flavors including pumpkin and gingerbread. The chai is distributed to small shops from Nevada to the coastline.

north fork chai

In just a few years, North Fork Chai has become a beacon of caffeine and friendly chatter in tiny Newcastle, where loyal customers drop in for egg sandwiches, avocado toast and Bruce’s wildly popular daily scones. There’s a graband-go case with seasonal items including homemade quiche and enchiladas, a selection of spices and sauces, and locally made gifts including rustic wooden spoons hand-carved by the siblings’ mom.

An easy on and off from Interstate 80, the shop is base camp for steaming cups of tea and coffee (try the pumpkin chai and make it dirty!) as you head to hiking in Auburn or longer jaunts farther up the mountain. If you can’t make it in person, order an amber jug of chai concentrate ($17) and pair it with delicious chai-spiced granola for a cozy cold-weather breakfast.

North Fork Chai

661 Newcastle Road, Newcastle;
(916) 663-3675;
northforkchaico.com