Dirty Chai Latte Vs Chai Latte: Here’s The Difference

Are you looking for information on dirty chai latte Vs chai latte? Read this article to find the differences, similarities, and preparation methods of each variety.

Dirty chai latte vs chai latte: here's the difference
What’s the difference between Dirty Chai Latte & Chai Latte?

They say, ‘change is the spice of life’ so even though I am faithful to my cup of mud and can have it any time of the day, chai lattes bring a good flavor change. Did I mention that some of my friends are non-coffee drinkers, so I like to offer them a chai latte or a dirty chai latte instead?

I have been frequently asked about dirty chai latte vs chai latte, so here’s my answer – Chai latte is concentrated tea with a blend of spices like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, simmered with milk. A dirty chai latte is prepared by adding two shots of espresso to a chai latte.

So, people who like coffee but don’t enjoy its bitterness can opt for the dirty chai latte which mainly comprises of spice (masala) tea but gives you a good dose of caffeine with the espresso shots. Chai latte is often used interchangeably with masala tea, but there’s a world of difference between the two.

While a chai tea latte is similar to masala tea in terms of the ingredients used, the method of preparation varies widely. The traditional style of Indian masala tea involves boiling tea leaves and spices in a mixture of water and milk, whereas chai tea latte involves adding steamed milk to spiced tea. Read our guide to the best chai tea brands.

FeaturesChai LatteDirty Chai Latte
Base drinkBlack TeaChai Latte
CoffeeNo1-2 Espresso shots
VariationsIced chai latteIced dirty chai latte
TasteDominant Tea FlavorStrong Coffee Flavor
Caffeine level50-70mg160mg

What Is Dirty Chai Latte

Dirty chai latte and ingredients
Dirty chai latte comprises of spiced tea or masala chai infused with a shot of espresso.

The good ol’ chai has gone global and today you can find a dirty chai latte even in the most posh coffee shops in New York. The espresso drink comprises of spiced tea or masala chai infused with a shot of espresso. In the US, you will find this as a popular variation of espresso drink.

As chai latte is also a popular drink, a dirty chai latte finds its place between a regular coffee latte and chai tea latte. The dirty lattes may be served hot or cold. The hot versions are prepared by adding hot steaming milk while the cold variation is made by adding ice to the blended drink.

Some people often ask me ‘Why is the drink called dirty anyway?’ Well, I know it’s surprising for a chai so well made to be called dirty, but I guess this is mainly because coffee (which is often referred to as mud) is added to it. Perhaps this also indicates the deviance from accepted standards or norms. How dirty!

Ordering A Dirty Chai Latte

Luckily, you can find a Dirty Chai Latte on the menu of almost all coffee shops. Even if it’s not on the menu, you can ask for one and the barista will brew for you. If a coffee shop does not offer a dirty chai latte at all, order a masala chai latte in its place and then add a shot of espresso to it.

For example, Starbucks offers a dirty chai latte, but a simple hack is to order a chai instead and request the barista add a shot or two of espresso. Double shots of espresso in chai is often referred to as double dirty chai.  If you want to order a cold dirty chai, ask for an iced dirty chai latte or blended dirty chai.

Dirty Chai Latte Recipe

Black tea, coffee and Cinnamon, the basic ingredients of chai latte
It comes in handy to learn how to make your dirty chai latte at home from scratch.

Are you someone who craves a dirty chai latte first thing in the morning or at midnight? It may not be possible to rush to a coffee shop at odd hours of the day, hence it comes in handy to learn how to make your dirty chai latte at home from scratch. Check out the recipe below:


  • 1 black tea bag
  • 1 to 2 shots espresso, or 2 to 4 ounces strong coffee
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Chai Tea Mix
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • Ground cinnamon, optional
  • For Iced Dirty Chai Latte:
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 2 shots espresso, or 4 oz. strong coffee
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Chai Tea Mix


  1. Start by brewing a perfect cup of strong black tea. There are two methods of making tea – using a tea bag or steeping tea leaves. Let’s discuss them both below.
  2. Take a big coffee cup and place a tea bag in it. Now, add a cup of boiling hot water to completely cover the tea bag and let it steep for 3 to 5 minutes depending on how strong you want your tea to be. Discard the tea bag. Add one or two shots of espresso to the drink.
  3. Another method is to take a cup of water in a saucepan and add some sugar cubes to it. Cook on medium flame and stir continuously as you do. As water comes to a boil, add tea leaves (1 or 2 teaspoons based on your preference) and steep for 3-5 minutes. Cover the lid for 2 minutes and then strain out black tea. Now, add one or two shots of espresso to the drink.
  4. When the black tea is ready, mix one to two tablespoons of a chai tea mix that comprises spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.
  5. Next, microwave the milk for about 45 seconds or so, until it becomes hot. Use a milk frother if you have one. If not, pour milk into a mason jar and keep it in the microwave. When milk becomes hot, shake to create forth.

Add frothed milk to enhance the taste of a dirty chai latte and finish it off by sprinkling cinnamon powder over it.

Preparing Iced Dirty Chai Latte (Cold Version)

Follow the steps mentioned above to make concentrated black tea. Keep black tea in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to cool down. Add ice cubes in a tall glass to cover about ¾ of the area and then pour tea over the ice. Add espresso shots to the glass with 1 to 2 tbsp of masala chai mix. Stir well and enjoy! 

If you have run out of tea bags or tea leaves, you may use the chai tea mix directly with regular coffee to enjoy a lip-smacking beverage. Similarly, if you don’t have an espresso machine at home, you can use regular coffee in its place.

Variations In Dirty Chai Latte

The two most common variations of dirty chai lattes are iced dirty chai lattes and blended dirty chai lattes (mentioned above). Other popular variations include dairy or vegan-free alternatives such as almond dirty chai (prepared using almond milk) or soy dirty chai (prepared using soy milk). Exotic variations also include green tea dirty chai.

Other examples of beverages that include both tea and coffee are chai-coffee cocktails and yuanyang coffee tea popular in Hong Kong. Some food recipes such as protein shakes, pancakes, cupcakes, muffins, and almond butter may also include chai spices and espresso

What Is Chai Latte?

A cup of chai latte with whipped cream
Typical masala chai or tea comprises of a strong black tea infused with many Indian herbs and spices.

A chai tea latte is a popular choice found on the menu of most coffee shops, and almost all of us have one of those chai-drinking friends in the group. As chai means tea containing spices, the more accurate term would be spiced tea latte. The term ‘chai tea latte’ was included in Dictionary.com in 1994.

Many people confuse a chai tea latte with masala chai, but they are different just like Café au lait (coffee with milk) and a latte (a shot of espresso with steamed milk). Contrary to an espresso latte with a strong coffee mixed with steamed milk, chai latte has a comparatively lighter and foamy texture.

A Peek Into The Origin Of Chai

While chai is a popular option in the menu of any self-respecting café, it is mostly associated with the cultured and wise lot. The origin of chai or tea can be traced back to several centuries ago in India. Mixing spices with concentrated tea is a popular beverage and it is known as masala chai or spice tea.

Typical masala chai or tea comprises of a strong black tea infused with many Indian herbs and spices. The different mix of spices used and proportions may vary, but the key ingredients include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, and black peppercorns to name a few.

There’s no standard recipe or blend for masala tea. Ingredients and spices may vary from region to region in different parts of India. The black tea base is often called Mamiri tea, a variety found in Assam. The process of curing the tea covers it into granules instead of flat-leaf forms.

Ardent tea enthusiasts may raise their eyebrows at tea prepared in the form of a latte, while latte lovers may not like the idea of a teapot brewing their favorite drink, but the perfect mixture of these two classics is what makes a dirty chai latte so special.

Chai is a drink that can be enjoyed at any time all day, thanks to the low caffeine level, which is about one-third of a cup of coffee. Chai can be paired with many snack items such as crackers, milk chocolate, cookies, and brie cheese. Some people enjoy it with scones to mellow down the rich flavor of chai.

Brewing Chai Or Tea

A cup of home-made chai
The traditional chai made from loose tea leaves may be made in a saucepan or in a classic teapot.

The traditional chai made from loose tea leaves may be made in a saucepan or in a classic teapot. Some people may add sugar to chai latte (or honey) to sweeten up the beverage. To make chai, you must simmer a few teaspoons of tea leaves in 250 ml of milk. When it comes to the boiling point, add another 250 ml of milk and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Strain the brew and add some honey to taste.

To make chai lattes, you may use the soluble chai spice powder like Oregon Chai Original Chai Tea Latte Powdered Mix or use a syrup-like Torani Chai Tea Spice Syrup to get that authentic chai flavor.

The latte version of chai is typically much sweeter than the traditional chai. Latte version is made by mixing a tablespoon of chai powder with hot water and then steamed milk is added to taste.

Recipe To Make Chai Latte


  • 1 ¾ cup of organic non-fat dry milk powder
  • ¼ cup of organic powdered cane sugar
  • 1 ½ cups of natural sweetener (sucanat or coconut sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper (optional)


  1. In a bowl, mix together vanilla and cane sugar. Let the mixture dry out completely and then break them into small lumps.
  2. Measure out the spices as mentioned above. If you have whole spices, grind them in a blender or food processor to get a powdered form.
  3. Take another bowl and mix cane sugar, spices, dry milk, and powdered sugar. Stir to combine all the ingredients and your chai latte mix is ready.
  4. Now, prepare a cup of freshly brewed tea using tea leaves or a tea bag. Add about 2 tablespoons of the chai latte mix to black tea and stir.
  5. The above recipe can make about a quart of chai latte mix that you can store in a quart-size mason jar and gift your chai-loving friend.

If you have sediments in your beverage, consider blending the finished mixture in a blender or food processor to create a super fine powder. To make an instant mix (for those who don’t have the time to brew tea separately), add 1 ½ cups of unsweetened instant tea to the chai latte powder.

If you prefer the taste of regular chai instead of vanilla tea, simply leave out the vanilla from the mixture.

Turn Your Chai Into A Dirty Drink!

If you love your chai but need an extra kick of caffeine then tell your barista to get you a dirty chai instead. The beautiful blend of the exotic flavors of chai and coffee creates a unique mix that even some of the die-hard espresso lovers crave.

When you walk into a cafe hoping to get an authentic chai latte, ask the server how it is prepared. Chai latte tastes best when it is made from tea leaves at a concentrated strength, however, most coffee shops will use pre-brewed or packaged concentrates that are mass-produced. They do not produce the same results and you will be dissatisfied, so remember to ask before you order.

At times, the chai latte may be used to incorrectly refer to a spiced beverage prepared like a standard espresso latte with spices sprinkled on the top. These drinks are loosely inspired by the masala chai tradition of India but do not contain any real tea in it.

When ordering your drink in a cafe, ensure you know how it is made and what to expect at the table. If the server does not understand your order or your chai latte is not mentioned on the menu, tell him to give you freshly brewed tea mixed with spices. To turn it into a dirty latte, tell him to add a shot of espresso to the drink.

Related Questions

Does a chai latte have caffeine?

Those who love chai but need an extra dose of caffeine usually opt for the dirty chai latte with an extra shot of espresso. This can easily boost the caffeine level of your drink to 160 mg per cup. For more caffeine, ask the server to add a double shot of espresso to your drink.

As chai tea lattes are brewed in a stronger way than pure tea, the former contains a higher level of caffeine than traditional tea forms. The Starbucks version of chai tea lattes contains about 50mg of caffeine in every 8-ounce cup and nearly 70mg per 12-ounce cup. Even in the higher range, the level of caffeine in a cup of chai latte is comparatively less than coffee.

How many calories (dirty chai latte vs chai latte)

Adding milk to any beverage increases the nutrition as well as calories. Dirt chai latte comprises black tea, milk, and shots of espresso. The total calorie count is 200 calories for a 12 oz drink and 340 calories for 20 oz.

Pure tea (black concentrated version) is a calorie-free drink but chai tea lattes are sweetened with the spice mix and milk. A typical chai latte from Starbucks contains about 190 calories, of which 128 calories come from sugar alone.

Can I use a French Press to make a dirty chai latte?

If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, consider using your French Press to make a good cup of coffee. I suggest using espresso grade beans to get that strong aroma. When using a French Press, heat water to 190-210 degrees F, below the boiling point. You can also use a Chemex (see my review) or Moka pot to brew coffee for a dirty latte.

What chai latte mix brand do you recommend?

When I am in the mood for it, I prefer the Oregon Chai Original powder mix to prepare a rich and creamy beverage. The blend contains cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and ginger to give you a warm and spicy flavor. Add it to your black tea for that perfect taste.

Can I froth milk without the help of an espresso machine?

In the absence of an espresso machine, pour milk into a mason jar and shake it to cause foam, then heat it in a microwave to get the warm frothy foam on the top. This works best with skim milk or low-fat milk. A quick hack is to use whole milk in your drink for flavor and create the froth using skim milk.

Does a chai tea latte have caffeine?

If you’ve been opting for a chai tea latte because you think it’s a caffeine-free beverage, you may be surprised to learn that it does contain caffeine. Per standard cup, a chai tea latte contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine. To find out whether this amount of caffeine poses any health risks, read on.

See Also:
Flat White Vs Latte: What Is The Difference?
Caramel Macchiato vs. Caramel Latte


  • Niki B

    Born and bred in South Africa, Niki B now does her writing from the distant shores of South Korea. A self-proclaimed coffee addict by day, and a writer by night, she gladly shares her knowledge with fellow coffee lovers.

  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.