What Is Dirty Chai? Benefits, Uses, and Recipes

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, and dirty chai is a great alternative for those who don't love the taste of strong coffee but wish to imbibe. Dirty chai is a latte drink that contains a single shot or double shot (doppio) 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.

The latte can be served 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 both hot and cold dirty chai lattes.

4 Health Benefits of Dirty Chai:

Drinking black 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 as black tea contains potassium, which relaxes the tension in blood vessels and arteries. Black tea may also help to reduce LDL levels, the "bad" cholesterol.

Diabetes

Studies have also shown that drinking coffee can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, and 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.

Gut Health

Black tea contains polyphenols, which help promote the growth of good bacteria and prevent the growth of bad bacteria in the stomach. It also has antimicrobial properties that are known to improve immunity and gut bacteria and eliminate harmful substances, which helps repair the digestive tract lining.

Uses

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

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 from the black tea and shot or two 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; if it isn't on the menu, ask for a chai latte with an added shot of espresso. (Dirty chai latte is on the Starbucks "secret" menu.) You can also make your drink a "double dirty chai" by requesting 2 shots 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 to make at home include Celestial Seasonings (in tea bag form and called "spiced espresso chai") and Simply Balanced from Target, which is sold in concentrated form and needs to be mixed with milk. Alpine Start sells instant dirty chai latte in packets; just add water and mix. All store-bought versions can be stored in the pantry.

what is dirty chai
The Spruce Eats / Emilie Dunphy

Recipes

There are plenty of easy recipes to turn into a dirty chai latte. Simply add a single shot or two of espresso along with frothed milk to a chai latte, or add a chai syrup to a caffe latte.

What's In Dirty Chai Latte

Dirty chai latte is made of espresso, steamed milk, and spiced black tea.

  • Espresso: A concentrated form of coffee that is made by forcing under pressure a small amount of nearly boiling water 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: The froth in a latte is 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.
  • Masala chai (spiced black tea): India's famous spiced tea that is usually made with a blend of spices including cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, but can also be made with a single spice such as ginger.
  • 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 dirty chai lattes are iced dirty chai lattes and blended dirty chai lattes. Other variations of dirty chai lattes include: