Is chai latte coffee or tea? Find out the answer and learn everything you need to know about the chai latte, including a delicious recipe.
Let’s be adventurous and try the weirdest-sounding drink on the menu!
Ahh, a chai latte sounds about right.
But is chai latte coffee?
I wondered the same thing, so I did my research on the subject. And to my surprise, a chai latte isn’t actually coffee.
Here’s what I mean.
Is Chai Latte Coffee or Tea?
Interestingly enough, the answer is hidden in the name of the drink.
You see, the word chai is derived from Chinese cha, which is tea. In fact, many languages around the world use a version of the word chai to refer to what’s called tea in English.
But when we’re talking about the chai latte, it’s not just any type of tea we’re talking about. We’re actually referring to a type of drink that originates in India, called masala chai.
Masala chai is black tea boiled in milk. Then, it’s mixed with a blend of spices that not only give it a unique flavor but tons of health benefits as well.
Even in India, the choice of spices used in masala chai depends on region and climate, but also on cultural preference. But traditionally, it includes:
- Black peppercorns
Other commonly used spices are:
- Star anise
Okay, so we know what masala chai is. But how does one turn it into a latte?
Pretty simple, actually.
You just have to use steamed milk to make masala chai. Then, top the drink with a nice layer of foam, as you would a real latte.
Does a Chai Latte Have Caffeine?
Chai tea latte is made with black tea. And as you probably know, tea contains caffeine.
Among different types of tea, black tea has the highest amount of caffeine. But these numbers are not as high as they are with coffee.
Of course, the actual amount of caffeine in a chai latte will depend on how much tea is used. So, for instance, an 8-ounce Starbucks cup of chai latte has about 50 milligrams of caffeine.
On the other hand, the same-sized caffe latte will have about 75 milligrams of caffeine instead.
The amount of caffeine in a chai tea latte is still below the amount in a single espresso shot. For that reason, you might not experience the annoying jitters from drinking this beverage for an energy boost.
Chai Latte vs Coffee: Which Is Better?
Now, this is a hard question to answer.
If we’re talking about flavor, then it’s really up to you. If you like tea and spices, then you’ll surely love a chai latte. The spices really blend well into the milk, so the drink isn’t spicy but sweet.
But you know what’s great about a chai tea latte?
The spices used for making a chai latte are also well-known for their medical properties, such as:
- Promotion of digestive health (ginger and black peppercorn)
- Anti-inflammatory properties (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom)
- Immunity boost (ginger and clove)
- Anti-oxidizing properties (all of them)
Of course, that’s not to say that coffee doesn’t have health benefits. But between the two, the chai latte still leads.
Furthermore, tea generally has much lower acidity than coffee. So if you prefer less acidity, or simply don’t digest acidic drinks well, then a chai latte is a better option for you.
However, there’s a catch.
Chai tea latte has much more calories than black coffee. Of course, that’s no surprise, given that it contains milk. Plus, many coffee shops also add sweeteners to their chai lattes, making them even more caloric.
The actual numbers depend on the ingredients, but you can expect an 8-cup of chai latte to have anywhere between 160 and 200 calories. Coffee, without additives like milk or sweeteners, contains less than 10 calories.
Therefore, there’s no clear answer as to which one of these drinks is better.
How to Make a Chai Latte
Want to enjoy a hot cup of chai tea latte at home?
It’s actually pretty easy to make this drink. You just need a few ingredients:
- 1 piece fresh ginger, sliced
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 black peppercorns
- 8 cardamom pods or seeds
- 8 cloves
- 2 bags of black tea
- 3 cups milk of your choice (dairy or plant-based)
One thing to keep in mind before we start – you’ll have to grind the spices. For that, the best tools are a spice grinder or a mortar. But if you don’t have either, you can use a mallet.
Basically, put the grinds inside a releasable bag and smash them with a mallet until they’re finely ground.
Of course, buying preground spices works as well. But for optimal flavor, it’s always best to grind them right before you’re about to use them.
Alright, let’s start. Here’s what you need to do:
- Grind your spices, then set them aside.
- Heat milk in a small saucepan on medium heat.
- Once it starts simmering, it’s time to turn off the heat.
- Add tea bags to the warm milk, and let them steep for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Once you take out the tea bags, turn the heat on the stove back to medium.
- Now add ground spices to the chai and whisk them together.
And that’s all. If you have a frother, you can also make a thick foam to top your drink with. Of course, there are other options to use for frothing milk, like a French press or an electric mixer.
As you can see, a chai latte is pretty easy to make at home. And if you, somehow, find it to be too basic, here are a few other variations to try.
Lavender Chai Latte
The combination of spices already gives a nice herbal note to the drink. But adding lavender really rounds up the flavor.
As for the basic ingredients, you’ll use the same that you’d use for a basic chai latte. The only thing you need to add is:
- 2 tablespoons fresh lavender blossoms or culinary lavender
Of course, the making process is pretty similar to a basic chai latte, with a few adjustments.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Heat the milk on medium heat until it simmers.
- Remove from heat and add tea bags and lavender to the milk.
- Once you’re ready to take out tea bags, grab a mesh strainer as well. Use it to get rid of leaves and flowers when pouring a lavender chai latte into a cup.
- Optionally, top your drink with foamed milk.
Matcha Chai Latte
If you like matcha, you’ll absolutely love this recipe.
I must admit, I was scared to try it at first, given that both chai and matcha have very distinct flavors. One is earthy, while the other is spicy. But combined together, they make a very delicious and unique drink.
Unsurprisingly, this recipe only slightly tweaks the original one. Basically, the only additions to your ingredient list are:
- ½ – 1 teaspoon matcha powder
- 1 – 2 teaspoons stevia powder
Of course, you can use a sweetener of your choice instead of stevia.
Here are the step-by-step instructions:
- Simmer the milk in a saucepan on medium heat, as per usual.
- Remove from heat, then add tea bags and let them steep for 4 to 5 minutes.
- After you remove the tea bags, add matcha powder and stevia to the mixture and whisk it vigorously.
Dirty Chai Latte
A chai latte sounds lovely, but do you feel like cheating on coffee when drinking it?
Hey, I get you.
But what if I told you that you could have the best of both worlds?
The reason why dirty chai lattes are called dirty is that they use a shot of espresso.
The legend says that the dirty chai latte was invented by accident. Apparently, in 1990, a barista added a shot of espresso by mistake when making a chai latte for an American. Well, the guy loved it, and the rest is history…
Now, the catch with this drink is that you need an espresso machine to make an authentic dirty chai latte.
If you don’t have one, you can still make something similar with a Moka pot.
Alright, let’s get into the recipe. You’ll need:
- 1 teaspoon ground chai spices
- 1 cup water
- 1 bag of black tea
- 4 ounces espresso
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (or simple syrup)
Here are the instructions:
- Add water and spices to a small saucepan and place on medium heat.
- Once the water starts boiling, remove it from the heat and add a tea bag. Let it steep for 4 to 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, make espresso and pour it into a large mug.
- Remove the tea bag and pour it into the mug. Use a mesh strainer to remove spices.
- Rinse the saucepan or take a different one. Add milk and maple syrup. Heat the milk to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t want it to be hotter, as it won’t froth as well.
- Using a frother or whisk, froth the milk. Pour the frothed milk on top of the chai latte.
To Sum Things Up
Even though it’s named after a coffee drink, a chai latte is actually tea. However, its flavor and texture remind a lot of a caffe latte, hence the name.
Chai latte is made of black tea, spices, and milk foam. It is healthy and delicious.
If you want to cut down on coffee, a chai latte is an excellent alternative to try. However, if you still want a caffeine boost, get a dirty chai latte with an extra espresso shot.
What is a latte anyway? Check out our in-depth article about this drink.
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