Delightfully creamy, subtly sweet and amply caffeinated, there are few morning beverages more perfectly balanced and outrageously delicious than a dirty chai latte.
Whole warming spices and ginger are gently simmered with milk, black tea and brown sugar to make a classic masala chai, while a shot of bitter espresso counters the sweetness and enlivens the drink. It’s so good, it may just become your go-to caffeinated beverage!
Aside from being super easy to make, dirty chai lattes are perfect for any occasion that calls for a warm drink with plenty of caffeine. Serve them at leisurely brunches alongside cinnamon rolls, pancakes and waffles, or dress them up with a healthy dollop of milk foam and ground nutmeg for a statement drink at fancier or festive brunches. However you serve them, they’re sure to be a hit.
Dirty chai lattes are essentially masala chai with a shot of espresso, so extra care is given to the masala chai part of the drink for optimal flavor. For best results, use whole spices and crush them with a mortar and pestle to extract the most flavor. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, a heavy pan or wine bottle can be used instead.
The tea comes together in a saucepan, and aside from the initial boiling of the water and spices, at no point should the liquid in the saucepan be brought to a boil after the tea is added. This will keep the tea from scalding and allow the spices to envelop the liquid without overwhelming it.
The espresso is added directly to the serving vessel, then topped off with the chai. You are more than welcome to add more than one espresso shot for a stronger coffee flavor. The drink is garnished with milk foam, but if you don’t have a milk foamer, it can easily be omitted without impacting the final product.
What You Need to Make a Dirty Chai Latte
To make a dirty chai latte, you’ll need loose-leaf black tea, espresso, your milk of choice, and a handful of whole warming spices such as cardamom pods, clove and cinnamon stick.
If you don’t have whole warming spices on hand, powdered versions can be used in their place.
If you don’t have an espresso maker, you can use strongly brewed coffee or cold brew coffee concentrate as an alternative. Just make sure to gently warm the cold brew concentrate before mixing it with the chai.
- Filtered water
- Loose leaf black tea ( preferably assam or ceylon)
- Espresso, strongly brewed coffee or iced coffee concentrate
- Whole milk or milk alternative
- Cardamom pods
- Whole black peppercorns
- Whole cloves
- Cinnamon sticks
- Fresh ginger (minced)
- Brown sugar (more or less depending on desired sweetness)
- Milk foam for serving (optional)
- Fresh nutmeg for serving (optional)
How To Make a Dirty Chai Latte
Place the cardamom pods, black peppercorns and cloves into the bowl of a mortar and pestle, and gently crush them until they are fragrant but still intact and the cardamom pods have opened.
Fill a medium saucepan with 3 cups of filtered water and add the cinnamon sticks, crushed spices, minced ginger and brown sugar.
Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. Boil the spices for 1 minute so their flavors can intensify, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
As soon as the water stops boiling, add in the milk and black tea and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the saucepan to make sure the milk doesn’t boil.
Once the milk begins to form a skin on the top, the tea is ready. Strain the tea through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
As soon as the tea is strained, make the espresso, and make the milk foam if using.
Pour one shot of espresso into each mug or serving glass, then pour the tea over the espresso.
Optionally, top off with milk foam and garnish with fresh nutmeg.
Serve hot and enjoy!
Yes. Dirty chai lattes have double the amount of caffeine (about 160 milligrams) than masala chai and espresso on their own. However, you can easily use decaf espresso or decaf black tea to achieve your preferred caffeine level.
Yes. Tea bags can easily be substituted for loose leaf, but make sure to avoid scented black teas or earl gray tea for this recipe. Use one bag of black tea for every 2 teaspoons of loose-leaf tea.
To make a “skinny” dirty chai latte, simply use low-fat or skim milk and swap out the brown sugar with your preferred low-calorie sweetener.
Dirty Chai Latte
- 3 cups filtered water
- 6 tsp loose leaf black tea
- 4 shots 6oz espresso strongly brewed coffee or iced coffee concentrate
- 1 ½ cups whole milk or milk alternative
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 ½ tsp whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 inch fresh ginger minced
- 2 tbsp brown sugar (more or less depending on desired sweetness)
- milk foam for serving (optional)
- Place the cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns into the bowl of a mortar and pestle, and crush the spices until they are fragrant but still intact and the cardamom pods are opened.
- Add 3 cups of filtered water, cinnamon sticks, crushed spices, minced ginger and brown sugar to a saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
- Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil, and boil for one minute then reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Once the water stops boiling, add the milk and black tea to the saucepan.
- Cook over medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes, taking care not to let the liquid boil.
- When the tea is done, strain it through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
- As soon as the tea is strained, make the espresso and milk foam (if using).
- Pour one shot of espresso into each mug or serving glass, then pour the tea over the espresso.
- Optionally, top off with milk foam and grated nutmeg.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
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