Dirty Chai: What Is In It & How To Make One At Home

Kirkland Gee
July 14, 2023

The dirty chai is a relatively modern drink, but it’s one of our favorite twists on a classic. It takes the basic chai latte and adds delicious espresso, adding complexity to an already-delicious beverage.

While combining coffee and tea isn’t always the best thing, the spiced flavors of chai tea and the sweet complexity of great espresso (or other strong coffee) combine for a delicious choice.

What is a Dirty Chai Latte?

The dirty chai is a combination of two classic drinks: chai tea (a spiced black tea variant) and espresso. It is a creamy, sweet, and spicy beverage that elevates a basic chai latte. The combination of espresso and chai tea creates a unique flavor that is both comforting and energizing.

This falls into the family of espresso drinks, while appealing to a lot of people who don’t typically enjoy strong coffee beverages.

Where did the Dirty Chai Originate from?

The dirty chai originated in Australia in the early 2000s. It is believed to have been created by a barista in Melbourne who combined espresso with a traditional chai latte.

It works as a great on-ramp for people who don’t love coffee into this beautiful world. Many coffee lovers we know started their journey with the dirty chai, and maybe you will too.

What's in a Dirty Chai Latte?

A dirty chai latte typically contains espresso, chai tea, steamed milk, and sugar or other sweeteners. The espresso and chai tea are combined to create the unique flavor of the drink, while the steamed milk and sweetener add a creamy texture and sweetness.

It’s a relatively simple drink, but it can be prepared with either a pre-made chai concentrate, or you can make your own. You can also use basic chai tea, but you’ll need to brew it in a more concentrated form so it retains its spicy sweetness when combined with milk in espresso.

The chai spices are a beautiful blend of cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, & clove—creating a warm, rich spicy sweetness that blends beautifully with steamed milk (or oat milk, if you’re dairy-free).

How to Drink a Dirty Chai Latte?

Dirty chai can be enjoyed hot or cold, depending on your preference. When it’s warm, you get more of that fall spice flavor, but when it’s iced, it often tastes sweeter on the tongue. 

At perfect extraction, we prefer the iced dirty chai, and it’s way easier to make at home (since you don’t need a way to steam milk).

Recommended Coffees for a Dirty Chai

For a dirty chai latte, you want a coffee that is more well-rounded—not too floral, not too bitter—to complement the sweetness and spice. We recommend Sister Moon from Saint Frank Coffee. This is a delicious, medium-roast coffee that’s a blend of a few different South American coffees. It’s sweet & fruity, but it also balances that with a nutty, toffee flavor that blends beautifully with a dirty chai.

How to Make a Hot Dirty Chai

Making a dirty chai at home is easy and can be done with just a few simple ingredients. No need to go to a Starbucks or your local coffee shop—you can just make it at home. Here's what you'll need:

Dirty Chai Ingredients

  • 1 shot of espresso (See our recommended espresso recipe here)
  • 2 oz of Chai Tea Concentrate (we like this one from Oregon Chai). If you really want, you can use normal chai tea bags and brew at a higher concentration, as well. Note—we wouldn’t recommend a plain black tea bag—having specifically a chai tea is preferred.
  • 6-10 ounces of steamed milk, depending on your preference.
  • (Optional) Honey to taste (or your other favorite sweetener)

Dirty Chai Latte Recipe

  1. Start by measuring out your concentrate and milk into a pitcher (or a mug, if you’re microwave steaming at home.)
  2. Once that’s ready, go ahead and pull your shot of espresso. 
  3. Then, steam your chai/milk mixture, either on a steam wand, a dedicated milk frother, or even just in the microwave. You’re aiming for between 150-160 degrees fahrenheit. The cup/pitcher should be just too warm to keep your hand on longer than a second or so.
  4. Optionally at this stage, you can add a sweetener to your espresso shot, but if you’re using the Oregon Chai or another concentrate, it’s probably already sweet enough.
  5. Just pour the steamed chai milk over your espresso shot and you’re ready to enjoy!

The total time to brew this drink if using concentrate is only a minute or two, making it a great choice for someone in a rush. You should taste notes of black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and the flavor of whatever espresso you choose.

How to Make an Iced Dirty Chai

To make an iced dirty chai, you can follow almost exactly the same recipe—just skip the milk-steaming part. And, if you want to take it up a notch, you can shake your espresso, ice, milk, and chai to get a foamy “head” on top of the drink. Once you try it, you won’t be able to go back. 

The iced dirty chai has become overwhelmingly popular. It can be made with whole milk, oat milk, almond milk, soy milk, or any other dairy-free alternative. Also, in the iced variation, you can get by with just using a brewed coffee, as long as it’s fairly concentrated. You’re really looking to focus on the chai flavor, anyways, as it isn’t really a “coffee drink.”

A highly-concentrated cold brew can be a great option here—and you can even make it decaf if you want!

About Perfect Extraction

We are a small team of specialty coffee nerds dedicated to giving you the best information you can find on the internet about all things coffee.

Learn more >

[{"@type": "Thing", "name": "Masala chai", "sameAs": "https://google.com/search?&kgmid=/m/02nnw0"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Masala chai", "sameAs": "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masala_chai"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Masala chai", "sameAs": "http://wikidata.org/wiki/Q877661"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Oat milk", "sameAs": "https://google.com/search?&kgmid="}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Oat milk", "sameAs": "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oat_milk"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Oat milk", "sameAs": "http://wikidata.org/wiki/Q20972637"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Tea", "sameAs": "https://google.com/search?&kgmid=/m/07clx"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Tea", "sameAs": "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea"}, {"@type": "Thing", "name": "Tea", "sameAs": "http://wikidata.org/wiki/Q6097"}]