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Is Chai Latte Coffee?

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When at a coffee shop, you may be intrigued to see Chai Latte on the menu. You ordered it, and it tastes milky, sweet, and wonderful. However, there does not seem to be a coffee taste in it. Is Chai Latte coffee?

Chai Latte is not coffee. It is spiced black tea combined with steamed milk and sweeteners. Chai Latte may be served in Western cafes, but it can trace itself back to the traditional Indian Masala Chai. However, it does not taste the same and can be different in many other ways.

In this post, we investigate Chai Latte coffee. We also look at how the drink is made and how different it is from traditional Indian Chai. 

Is Chai Latte Coffee?

Chai is not coffee but a tea-based drink. The drink is commonly served in Western-style cafes and is usually prepared using Western Barista-style techniques. 

Most Baristas start by steaming hot water with the Chai tea bags, using the milk steamer on the espresso machine. Chai tea bags contain Indian black tea with a blend of spices, usually cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and more. 

This tea is then combined with sweeteners. Hot, steamed milk is poured into the drink, similar to how a cup of Cafe Latte is made. The result is a milky, spiced, and sweet cup of tea with a velvety and airy texture.

Chai Latte can be considered a Western adaptation of the traditional Indian Masala Chai. Masala Chai is also a milky, spicy, and sweet tea drink. Some also consider the two as close relatives, similar to Turkish and Arabic Coffee.

Chai Latte vs. Traditional Masala Chai

Chai Latte and Traditional Masala Chai: two beverages rooted in rich traditions, yet distinct in flavor and preparation.

While the former has become a global café favorite, the latter boasts centuries-old Indian origins. Dive into their unique differences in this section below. The table gives you a great overview to start with.

Chai LatteMasala Chai
PreparationBrewing tea using Chai tea bags, before adding steamed milk.Brewing spices and tea in fresh milk directly.
VariationsChocolate Chai Latte
Vanilla Chai Latte
Dirty Chai Latte
Changing spice blends, or tea leaves
ServingHot or cold In cups or glassHot only
Served in small steel tumblers called Davara
Flavor & TasteMilky and sweet
Frothy and airyLess spicy
Milky and sweet Spicier
Popular InWestern worldIndian subcontinent, Indian diaspora
Table overview of Chai Latte vs. Traditional Masala Chai.


For Chai Latte, baristas usually start brewing tea using Chai tea bags. Then they steam milk and pour it into the tea, like preparing a Cappuccino or Latte. The tea replaces the espresso.

With Masala Chai, you start by heating milk and adding tea and spices. You allow the concoction to brew over the fire for 10 minutes before straining and serving. 

“Homemade Masala Chai Concentrate (Spiced Milk Tea)” by Joshua Weissmann on YouTube.


There are many variations of the Chai Latte. Popular ones include Chocolate and Vanilla Chai Latte. In these variations, chocolate or vanilla powders are added to the drink after making them. There is also dirty chai, where a shot of espresso is added in for more coffee kick.

With Masala Chai, variations can be more subtle. Chai makers are known to create their own blend of spices and tea and brew them with different styles of milk to produce a unique-tasting Chai that no other person can replicate.


Chai Latte is commonly served in a coffee cup, usually a Latte cup. However, glasses are also common and are becoming more popular over time. You can enjoy your Chai Latte hot or iced.

Masala Chai, they are traditionally served in a Davara, a steel cup, and a tumbler set. They are also served in small ceramic or Western-style cups and saucers. Masala Chai is almost enjoyed hot all the time.

Flavor and Taste

Chai Latte uses more milk and fewer spices in the drink. As a result, it tastes milky and sweet. It is also more mellow and not too spicy to suit Western palates. The steamed milk makes the drink airy, velvety, and frothy.

Masala Chai is milky and sweet, with a strong tea taste. It also has more spices, resulting in a heavier spice taste. Masala Chai can be described as a more potent and intense cup of tea compared to Chai Latte.

Popular In

Chai Latte and its variations are popular in the Western world. You may be able to get a cup of Chai Latte in Western-style cafes in most places, even outside of the West.

Masala Chai can be considered the default drink in the Indian subcontinent. Outside, they may be harder to get, but many Indian restaurants should be able to serve you a cup.

Can You Add Coffee To Chai Latte?

“Chai Latte, A Drink to Make You Feel Better” by Spice Bangla on YouTube.

You can add coffee to Chai Latte. In fact, it can be quite a popular practice to mix coffee and tea together. 

Drinking coffee and tea together can be popular in South East Asia and Hong Kong. With Chai Latte, it is common to add coffee into it, usually in the form of espresso shots.

The drink is commonly called a Dirty Chai Latte. To prepare this drink, the Barista will brew a cup of Chai tea and then add a shot of espresso. Steamed milk is then added, similar to a latte. 

Dirty Chai Latte can also be called in many names, such as:

  • Red Eye Chai
  • Espresso Chai
  • Java Chai
  • Filthy Chai
  • Strong Man Chai

Common Questions About Chai Latte

Is Chai Latte Coffee?

Chai Latte is not coffee. It is a sweet tea-based drink infused with a blend of spices such as cinnamon, pepper, ginger, cardamom, and more. You then pour steamed milk, like preparing Latte to complete the drink.

Does Chai Latte Contain Caffeine?

Chai Latte is made of tea, which means it will have caffeine. A 12 oz (354ml) Tall serving of Chai Latte from Starbucks contains about 70 mg of caffeine. This is lower than a similar serving of coffee.

Is Chai Latte Similar To Traditional Indian Masala Chai?

Chai Latte and Indian Masala Chai are similar in tea-based drinks with milk and spices. However, they have different tastes, textures, and preparation methods. They are also commonly served in different places.

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