Chai Latte Vs Dirty Chai (Key Differences Explained)

Do you love drinking tea? If so, you're probably familiar with a chai latte and dirty chai. These drinks are two of the staple drinks you'll find in many cafes and coffee shops. However, many people think that these two beverages are the same. But they're not! Their ingredients and taste are very much distinct.  

If you also think that these drinks are the same, this article is for you. We will discuss below the difference between chai latte vs. dirty chai, what they are, and how you can prepare them at home.  

Variations and Origins 

Chai latte and dirty chai both come from the famous Indian masala tea. Chai latte is a fragrant, milky, sometimes spicy drink, while dirty chai is simply a regular chai latte with a shot of espresso.  

Unfortunately, the origins of both drinks aren’t as clear as their parent drink, Indian masala tea. Chai lattes started becoming popular in the 1990s when many Western coffee shops began serving them. However, there's no definitive answer as to where it originated. Today, it is one of the most popular drinks in cafes and available in major coffee shop chains such as Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Tim Hortons, and more.  

On the other hand, dirty chai is said to have originated in England in the 1990s, when a barista was making a chai latte for a traveler and accidentally added a shot of espresso into the drink. Instead of declining the glass, the traveler decided to taste it and was surprised that it was indeed a good drink. From then, it became the traveler's go-to coffee order for years and has been introduced in many cafes since.  

Taste/Flavor 

Chai latte is perfect for people who don’t enjoy the bitter taste of coffee. This drink has a unique flavor, usually spiced up with various spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Its taste varies depending on how the cafes prepare this drink. So, expect it to taste differently depending on where you got the drink.  

The flavor profile of a dirty chai is similar to a chai latte but with a hint of the bitter taste from the shot of espresso. Spices like cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, are also added to this drink to add more flavor. Some people prefer adding non-dairy milk to this drink, making it an excellent option for vegans.  

Caffeine Content  

Compared to regular tea lattes, the tea in chai lattes is brewed more potently. This means that it contains a higher level of caffeine than tea lattes. Starbucks chai lattes contain 50mg of caffeine in its 8oz cup, and the 12oz cup has 70mg. But even though it has higher caffeine compared to other teas, it’s still comparatively lesser than coffee.  

Dirty chai, on the other hand, contains higher amounts of caffeine. This is because of the extra shot of espresso added to it. So from 70mg per cup, the caffeine content of dirty chai dramatically increases to 160mg. Of course, if you like it stronger, you can always ask for another shot on your drink.  

Calorie Content 

Chai lattes have two main ingredients: black tea and milk. Pure black tea has no calories but the milk added to the drink increases its calorie content. In addition, some recipes require significant amounts of sugar, which will also add to their overall calorie content. For example, Starbucks chai latte contains 190 calories.  

On the other hand, dirty chai has three main ingredients: black tea, milk, and espresso shots. Naturally, the espresso shot increases the calorie content. So, a 12oz cup has 200 calories, while a 20oz cup has 340 calories.  

chai latte vs dirty chai

Chai Latte (Overview & How To Make It?) 

A chai latte is a tea-based drink that is composed of black tea, steamed milk, and spices like cinnamon or cardamom. Some recipes add foam to it to make it more unique. The recipe for this drink varies depending on each cafe. Some use their own signature blend and secret ingredients, while others only use instant or powdered versions of chai syrup to make a cup quickly.  

Many people often think that chai latte and masala chai are the same drink. While they’re essentially correct, the two drinks differ since they use different types of milk. Masala chai uses hot milk, while chai latte uses steamed milk. This is why chai latte has a foamy and light flavor.  

If you want to make your own chai latte at home, follow the recipe below:  

Chai Latte Recipe 

Ingredients 

  • Black tea 
  • 1 ¾  cup non-fat milk powder  
  • ¼ cup powdered cane sugar  
  • 1 ½ tsp natural sweetener (coconut sugar or stevia) 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • Spices (you can use all or any of the spices below, depending on what's available and your preferences) 
  • 2 tsp ground ginger 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder 
  • 1 tsp white pepper 
  • 1 tsp cardamom 
  • 1 tsp dried cloves 
  • 1 tsp nutmeg 
  • 1 chai tea mix (if you don’t want to make your own tea mix) 

Instructions 

  1. 1
    Mix cane sugar and vanilla extract together in a bowl and allow it to dry. Once dry, divide them into lumps.  
  2. 2
    Gather all available spices. Note that the taste may change if you leave out one or more spices. Don't worry; it'll still taste okay. If you use whole spices, don't forget to grind them using a blender or processor.  
  3. 3
    Using another bowl, mix all the spices, dry milk, and natural sweeteners. Mix well, and the chai latte mix is ready.  
  4. 4
    Then, brew your black tea and add 2 tsp of the latte mix. Your drink is now ready.  
  5. 5
    If you're using an instant chai tea mix, just brew the black tea and the chai tea mix, and you’re all good. If you want it cold, just add ice! 

Note: This recipe can make about a quart of chai latte mix. Make sure to store it properly so you can use it again for your next tea or give it as a gift to your friends. Also, if you don’t like vanilla, you can leave it out.  

chai latte

Dirty Chai (Overview & How To Make It?) 

Dirty chai is an excellent option if you’d like to enjoy coffee in the morning without bitterness. The chai latte balances the bitter taste of the espresso shot. This allows you to get the caffeine kick you need minus the intense coffee flavor.  

Since its base drink is chai latte, you can also taste different spices such as cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. However, the most commonly added spice for this drink is black pepper because it produces a strong aroma when burned, apart from it being an excellent source of flavor and spice.  

Are you ready to drink this drink at home? Follow this recipe:  

Dirty Chai Recipe 

Ingredients 

  • Black tea 
  • 1 ¾  cup non-fat milk powder  
  • ¼ cup powdered cane sugar  
  • 1 ½ tsp natural sweetener (coconut sugar or stevia) 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • Make your own chai tea mix (you can use all or any of the spices below, depending on what’s available) 
  • 2 tsp ground ginger 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder 
  • 1 tsp white pepper 
  • 1 tsp cardamom 
  • 1 tsp dried cloves 
  • 1 tsp nutmeg 
  • 1 chai tea mix (if you don’t want to make your own tea mix) 
  • 1 to 2 shots espresso, or 2 to 4-ounces strong coffee 

Instructions 

  1. 1
    Make your chai latte by using the exact instructions above.  
  2. 2
    Once done, add the espresso shot/s, and your chai latte is ready to go! 
dirty chai

Frequently Asked Chai Questions 

Are chai lattes healthy? 

Chai lattes have fewer calories than sugary drinks like hot cocoa or sodas, especially if you drink them without sugar. Using non-dairy or low-fat milk can also make it healthier.  

Does chai tea make you poop? 

Yes, it can. The ginger and cinnamon found in chai teas are known to aid in digestion. This helps in passing food more quickly.  

Is chai latte good for weight loss? 

Since it’s a low-calorie drink, a chai latte is good if you’re trying to lose weight. The proteins found in the milk are also suitable for weight management. However, be sure not to add a lot of sugar or go sugar-free if you’re drinking it to lose weight. 

How many shots of espresso are in a Starbucks Grande dirty chai? 

A Starbucks Grande dirty chai has two shots of espresso in it.  

Does a dirty chai taste like coffee? 

No, it doesn’t. Dirty chai tastes more like a chai latte with a little bit of kick from the espresso shot.  


Conclusion

Now that you know the difference between chai latte vs. dirty chai, you can now correctly order the drink you like. If you just want a nice cup of spicy drink, a chai latte would suffice. But if you want a boost of energy, go for the dirty chai!