Pouring frothy steamed milk into a glass mug of chai tea with espresso.

I’d like to introduce you to the drink that single-handedly fueled me through my senior year of college—the dirty chai latte. This cozy drink combines the best of both worlds—the sweet spiciness of a chai latte and the robust energy boost from espresso!

Sure, you can pop by your local coffee shop and ask for them to add an espresso shot to your chai latte, but why spend all that time and cash when you can make it at home for just pennies on the dollar? Let’s get brewing!

Dirty chai in a glass mug with whole spices around it such as cinnamon and cardamom. Top view of a frothy dirty chai with whole spices and cinnamon sprinkled on top.

What is dirty chai?

A dirty chai is a chai latte with a shot of espresso added. Sometimes, they are also called a java chai, red eye chai, or chai charger.

Dirty chai tea latte is a coffee shop favorite because it gives you the spicy-sweet flavor of chai spices, with the caffeine level of espresso. When you can’t decide between a chai latte and an espresso drink, try a dirty chai!

Why is it called a dirty chai?

The word “dirty” comes because when you add the dark espresso shot, it muddies up the color of the pale tea latte.

A dirty chai tea latte garnished with whole spices such as a cinnamon stick, star anise and cardamom pods.Front view of a glass mug filled with dirty chai latte.

What is dirty chai made of?

To make your own dirty chai latte at home, you’ll need:

  • Masala chai. You can use a store-bought chai loose-leaf blend, chai tea bags, or your own mix. Chai has been a popular beverage in India and surrounding countries for centuries, and the exact spice blend can vary widely by region. So while there are lots of thoughts on what exactly makes a “perfect” chai, most recipes include cardamom, ginger, and some combination of cinnamon, black pepper, fennel, coriander, cloves, and other spices.
  • Hot water.
  • Espresso or strong coffee. At the coffee shop, dirty chai lattes are made with espresso. But if you don’t have an espresso maker or espresso machine, strong coffee will work as well!
  • Maple syrup. For this recipe, maple syrup is our sweetener of choice, but you could also use honey, cane sugar, coconut sugar, or any other sweetener that works for you.
  • Half-and-half. Half-and-half is what gives this dirty chai tea latte its coffee shop creaminess. We recommend you steer clear of fat-free or low-fat milk here, but whole milk will also do the trick. If you prefer, you can also swap in non-dairy milk alternatives—oatmilk, almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, and full-fat coconut milk are all great.

Close up of a glass mug filled with espresso, chai tea, and frothy steamed milk.

How to make a dirty chai latte: basic steps

You’ll love how simple it is to make this dirty chai:

  1. Steep tea in hot water for five minutes, and then strain out the tea leaves or remove the tea bags.
  2. Stir in the espresso or coffee, and add maple syrup to taste.
  3. Heat milk or half-and-half on the stove over low heat, or in the microwave, until just warm. Don’t let it boil!
  4. Use a French press, whisk, or milk frother to make the half-and-half frothy, and then pour over the tea mixture.
  5. For a little extra zing, sprinkle the top with some freshly ground nutmeg or cinnamon.

Wholefully Protip

You can also grab chai concentrate from the grocery store and use that in place of the chai brewed in the recipe.

How to froth milk for a dirty chai latte

This is so easy, no matter which method you choose. First, warm milk or half-and-half. You want it to be drinkably warm—don’t let it boil. Then, you have a few options to make it thick, creamy, and frothy:

  • French press. This is my favorite way to froth milk—just pour it into a French press and push the plunger up and down until the milk is nice and frothy.
  • Whisk. Whisk the milk vigorously until it is bubbly.
  • Milk frother. You can use an electric frother, which you stick into the milk until bubbly, or a manual frother, which is my preferred method (the electric frother batteries always seem to die too quickly!). For a manual frother, pour the milk into the bottom piece and put the lid on. Then pump the handle of the lid until the milk is frothy.

Close up of the frothy top of a chai tea latte in a large glass mug.

How do I make this drink vegan?

It’s easy to make this drink plant-based—all you have to do is swap out the milk you use. Any plant-based milk does the trick, but we really like oatmilk or full-fat coconut milk to replicate the creaminess of half-and-half.

Pouring frothy steamed milk into a glass mug of chai tea with espresso.

Dirty Chai Latte Recipe

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Can't decide between coffee and tea today? With this Dirty Chai Latte, you can have the best of both worlds!


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons loose-leaf masala chai blend (or 3 tea bags)⁠
  • 1/2 cup hot water⁠
  • 4 ounces espresso or strongly brewed coffee⁠
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (to taste)⁠
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half⁠


    1. Steep the tea in the hot water for 5 minutes, then strain the tea. Mix in the espresso or coffee and maple syrup to taste.⁠
    2. Heat the half-and-half⁠ until just warm, but not boiling, then froth it using a French press (my favorite method) or frother.
    3. Pour the frothed half-and-half⁠ into the tea mixture, stir lightly, and enjoy!⁠
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 266Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 105mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 0gSugar: 29gProtein: 4g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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