Chai lattes are a sweet, spicy, and creamy drink that are loved by many (myself included). Because chai lattes have “latte” in their name, many people wonder whether or not they have coffee in them.
There is no coffee in a chai latte. The drink is made with spiced black tea and steamed milk with cinnamon sometimes sprinkled on top. A chai latte will only have coffee in it when a shot of espresso is added, making a drink known as a “dirty chai.”
In this article, I’ll quickly cover what a chai latte is and where it comes from and then get into the details of why a chai latte doesn’t have coffee in it and how you can add coffee to a chai latte if you’d like. Let’s get into it!
What is Chai?
The word chai originated in India thousands of years ago. While for those of us in the United States it refers to a specific drink, for people in India the word “chai” just means “tea.”
The specific type of tea used to make chai lattes is a tea called masala chai.
Masala chai is made by steeping black tea in water and then mixing it with sugar, ginger, and milk, however, other spices are sometimes added including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and peppercorns.
Masala chai has been sold in India for thousands of years. Originally they just drank the tea in water. It wasn’t until the 1800s when British colonizers established tea plantations in India and forced their workers to take regular tea breaks that Indian workers used milk to dilute the drink since masala chai was expensive to drink every day.
What is a Chai Latte?
A chai latte is masala chai tea (black tea infused with cinnamon, clove, and other spices) combined with steamed milk, which is milk that’s been heated and frothed to become sweeter and creamier. A chai latte is sometimes topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.
This combination of spiced tea and steamed milk creates a really creamy drink with a combination of sweet and spicy flavors.
Whole milk is the type of milk traditionally used, but it can be substituted out for any other type of milk like Oat, Skim, Coconut, etc.
A chai latte can also be made with cold milk and poured over ice to create an “Iced Chai Latte.”
Does a Chai Latte Have Coffee in it?
Although a chai latte has “latte” in its name, there is no coffee or espresso in it. It's only made of spiced tea and steamed and foamed milk.
I think a big reason why people wrongfully assume a chai latte has coffee in it is that it has a “latte” in the name, and regular lattes have espresso (a type of coffee) in them.
The reason a chai latte is called a latte is that it still has the steamed milk and milk foam portions of a latte, but the espresso part of the latte is replaced with chai tea.
Can I Add Coffee to my Chai Latte?
While a regular chai latte has no coffee in it, you can order a chai latte with coffee in it at most coffee shops by ordering a “dirty chai.”
A dirty chai is simply a chai latte with a shot or two of espresso added to it.
If you’re making a dirty chai yourself, the ideal type of coffee beans used to make the espresso for it are sweeter varieties with chocolate, hazelnut, and fruity flavors. However, if you’re ordering from your local coffee shop they’ll probably just add a shot of whatever espresso they have ready and available.
A chai latte is a regular latte but with chai tea instead of espresso. This means that regular chai lattes do not have any coffee in them, although you can add a shot of espresso by ordering a “dirty chai”
If you have the time I recommend watching this youtube video of a genuine chai latte being made by an Indian street vendor.
I hope this article could help you out and answer any questions you had. If you’d like to learn more about chai lattes, espresso, and other coffee shop drinks, be sure to check out the rest of my website!
Have a great day!
This article was written by Josh, the founder and owner of angryespresso.com. You can learn more about Josh on our About the Team page.