What Is Dirty Chai?

High angle view of dirty chai

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Dirty chai is a popular espresso drink served in coffee shops. It consists of a shot of espresso mixed into a spiced "chai tea" (or masala chai). It's usually made with a chai concentrate or tea, steamed milk, and a single shot of espresso, and the result is a cross between a regular latte and a chai tea latte.

Fast Facts

• Alternative Names: Espresso Chai, Java Chai, Red Eye Chai, Chai Charger, Tough Guy Chai
• Temperature: Hot or iced
• Main Ingredients: Espresso, black tea, milk

What Is Dirty Chai?

Chai-flavored foods and drinks have become incredibly popular in recent years. Dirty chai is a latte drink that contains a single shot or doppio (double shot) of espresso, steamed milk, and spiced black tea (masala chai). It is smooth and milky, fragrantly spiced, with a mild coffee flavor. For more coffee strength, an extra shot of espresso can be added. Dirty chai is one of the many ways in which chai spices are used to flavor food and drinks. The spices most frequently used in dirty chai are cardamomcinnamonclovesginger, and black pepper.

Dirty chai is a great alternative for those who don't love the taste of strong coffee but wish to imbibe. The latte can be hot or cold. Hot versions include hot steamed milk, and cold versions include ice. Cold dirty chai can come in the form of an iced latte or a blended latte. Sweeteners may be added to hot and cold dirty chai lattes.

4 Health Benefits of Dirty Chai:

Drinking tea and espresso has been shown to contribute to a number of health benefits:

Immune System

Black tea is rich in antioxidants, which promotes a healthy immune system and may help the body fight disease-causing viruses and harmful bacteria.

Heart Health

Studies have shown that consuming black tea may help to reduce blood pressure. Black tea contains potassium, which relaxes the tension in blood vessels and arteries, reducing blood pressure.

Diabetes

Studies have also shown that drinking coffee can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Drinking black tea has been shown to reduce blood glucose levels. By helping to regulate the glucose and insulin levels in the body, black tea may prevent the spikes and drops that can be dangerous for people with diabetes.

Energy and Weight Loss

Drinking tea and espresso helps boost metabolism, which may increase energy and help the body burn fat.

Uses

Dirty chai is a coffee shop drink, typically ordered outside of the home, on the go, or when gathering with friends. It's typically a morning or afternoon coffee drink served on its own or with a snack. Because of the double dose of black tea and espresso, it's a flavorful energy booster.

How to Drink Dirty Chai

To make a dirty chai latte, brew 8 ounces of strong black tea for 3 to 5 minutes in boiling water with a tea bag or 1 to 2 teaspoons loose leaves. Add 1 (or 2) shots of espresso and 1 to 2 tablespoons of chai tea mix. Heat milk until hot (or use a milk frother) and add to your taste. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

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Watch Now: How to Order a Dirty Chai

Caffeine Content in Dirty Chai

Dirty chai latte packs a double whammy of caffeine with black tea and a shot of espresso. The average caffeine level of a 12-ounce dirty chai latte is 160 milligrams (versus 50 to 70 milligrams for a chai latte).

Buying and Storing

At most coffee shops, you can order a dirty chai latte by simply asking for it, even if it isn't on the menu. If the coffee shop doesn't offer it, ask for a chai latte with an added shot of espresso.

If you want your dirty chai cold, you can order it as an "iced dirty chai latte" or a "blended dirty chai latte" (which is blended until smooth and often served with whipped cream and/or other toppings).

Popular brands offering dirty chai teas include Starbucks, Celestial Seasonings (in tea bag form), and Peet's Coffee & Tea.

You can also make your drink a "double dirty chai" by asking for 2 shots of espresso.

what is dirty chai
The Spruce Eats / Emilie Dunphy

Recipes

There are plenty of easy and simple recipes to make dirty chai.

What's In Dirty Chai

  • Espresso: It's an Italian coffee-making method in which a small amount of nearly boiling water is forced under pressure through finely ground coffee beans, producing a 1- to 2-ounce shot of coffee. When made correctly, a rich golden cream (crema) will form on the surface. Espresso coffee can be made with a wide variety of coffee beans and roasts.
  • Steamed milk: It's the froth in a latte. It's the result of milk being exposed to high-pressured steam by gradually introducing steam into milk to create a layer of very small bubbles. This can be achieved with nonfat, low-fat, and full-fat milk, as well as milk alternatives, such as almond, soy, or oat milk.
  • Sweeteners and flavored syrups: Sugar, honey, artificial sweeteners, and popular flavored syrups, may be added to dirty chai.

Types of Dirty Chai

The most common variations of hot dirty chai lattes are iced dirty chai lattes and blended dirty chai lattes. Other variations of dirty chai lattes include:

  • Vegan/Dairy Free: This includes alternatives like soy dirty chai (made with soy milk) and almond dirty chai (made with almond milk).
  • Green Tea Dirty Chai: It's made with green tea instead of black tea.
  • Hong Kong Yuanyang (Ying-Yang) Coffee-Tea: This is a blend of black tea (preferably Ceylon) and sweetened condensed milk, and drip coffee.
  • Faux Dirty Chai: You can also get a similar flavor to a dirty chai latte by ordering a cinnamon latte, ginger latte, or cardamom latte, or by ordering a spiced tea with milk and an espresso shot.

Side Effects

Drinking too much black tea, or any caffeinated beverage in large quantities can increase the chance of side effects, such as headache, nervousness, shakiness, irregular heartbeat, or sleep problems. To reduce this risk, avoid drinking tea or coffee in large quantities.

The excessive use of sweeteners, syrups, and/or concentrates may mitigate or offset the health benefits of tea and coffee. Artificial sweeteners and flavorings may cause side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, and digestive problems.