Chai Latte

Here’s how to make a chai latte at home…the easy way! This drink is creamy and cozy spiced with the perfect fluffy foam topping.

Chai latte

Are you a sucker for a good chai latte? Because guess what: you can easily make one at home! No need to run to your favorite coffee shop, or load on the sugars and artificial flavors of a grocery store carton. You can make an even better chai latte in the comfort of your own home. There’s something that’s uniquely beautiful about this drink: the intrigue of the warm spices, the twinge of bitterness of tea, the rich, fluffed milk froth that makes a mustache after each sip. Yes, this is the way that a chai latte should be. Here’s how to make it at home!

How to make a chai latte

A chai latte takes traditional masala chai, a milky spiced tea from India, and combines it with frothy steamed milk of a cafe latte. The mashup appears to be an American invention that was popularized by Starbucks in the 1990’s. It’s safe to say that many coffeehouse versions of a chai latte have little left of the traditional Indian inspiration: they’re often too sweet and overly spiced.

The recipe below for a chai latte is gently spiced and subtly sweet. It takes our masala chai recipe for milky tea with chai spices, then adds steamed milk for a frothy top. It’s just sweet enough and light instead of overly rich. Keep reading for all you need to know about how to make a chai latte….the easy way.

Chai latte

The chai spices you need

The word chai translates to “tea” in Hindi, so saying chai tea is technically like saying “tea tea.” The more correct term for the Indian tea blend is masala chai. The word masala refers to a blend of spices used in cooking. Just like the word curry, a Westernized reduction of a complex blend of Indian spices, the American concept of chai can oversimplify and appropriate a rich Indian cultural tradition.

Masala chai spices can include many different ingredients based on the cook, just like curry powder. Our Homemade Chai Spice mix uses common chai spices, but note there are many more used regionally in Indian blends. Here’s what you’ll need for the chai spices:

  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Cardamom
  • Black pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Fennel seed
Chai spices

First, make the tea

Traditionally, chai spices are simmered whole to make masala chai. Since whole spices can be expensive and harder to find in America, this chai spice blend uses ground spices. Using ground spices is easier and also allows you to use the remainder of the mix for flavoring breads, cookies and muffins. Keep in mind that traditional Indian masala chai uses whole spices.

Once you’ve got the chai spices, all you need is the tea! You’ll need black tea for a chai tea latte. Use 1 bag of black tea, or 1 teaspoon loose leaf tea. Any type of black tea works! Of course, the better the tea, the better the chai latte. Simmer it with the chai spices and water. Then you’re ready for the most important part…

how to make a chai latte

How to froth milk for a chai latte

The most important part of a chai latte: frothing the milk! This is the place where you’ll need a bit of technique. If it’s your first time frothing, we highly recommend reading How to Froth Milk before you start.Here are a few tips on how to get the perfect foam on a chai latte:

  • The best milk for a chai latte? Use 2% milk (our favorite), or whole milk if you like a richer latte. Don’t use skim milk, as it doesn’t foam enough. Want vegan or dairy free? Go to Vegan Chai Latte.
  • Heat the milk to 150 degrees (scalding). The temperature is important for the perfect frothy foam. Use a candy thermometer if you have one. Or, you can eyeball it: 150 degrees is hot to the touch with some small bubbles starting to form on the outside, but it’s not yet simmering.
  • Use a French press or hand frother. You don’t need an espresso machine to make foam! We used our French press and it worked great. You can also use a hand frother, which works even better! If you don’t have any fancy gadgets, you can vigorously whisk the milk. For the French press, pump 100 times or 1 minute: this should result in beautiful, creamy and frothy foam!

Note: These tips work only for dairy milk. Head to our Vegan Chai Latte post for how to froth non-dairy milk.

The sweetener for this chai latte: maple syrup

This chai latte recipe is intentionally just sweet enough: it’s not a copycat Starbucks recipe that’s packed full of sugar. That said, it’s also sweet enough that it tells your taste buds that it’s a chai latte! Here are a few notes on the sweetener to use for a chai latte:

  • Our favorite? Pure maple syrup. It has just the right caramel-flavored nuance (it doesn’t taste like maple, promise).
  • Other natural options: honey or agave syrup. These natural sweeteners each have their own nuance and gentle sweetness.
  • Or, use simple syrup. If you have a batch on hand for cocktails, it also works for lattes.
The best chai latte

Serving your chai latte

And that’s it! Pour the milk and foam into your spiced tea and you’ve made it: your very own homemade chai latte! We like to add a little sprinkle of the chai spices on top to make it look fancy.

Want to make lattes to order throughout the week? You can also make a big batch of the spiced tea and refrigerate. When you’re craving a latte, warm up 3/4 cup of the tea, then froth the 1/2 cup milk.

Variation 1: Dirty Chai Latte!

Our favorite variation on the chai latte? Dirty chai! The story goes that the dirty chai latte was invented accidentally in the 1990s in England, when a barista put a shot of espresso into a chai latte she was making for an American. He loved it, and the rest is history. Want to make it? Simply add 4 ounces espresso to the tea in this recipe, or go to the recipe for Dirty Chai Latte.

Variation 2: Iced Chai Latte!

Wait: we have another favorite variation on this tea latte: the sweetly refreshing Iced Chai Latte! This tasty spin on the classic couldn’t be easier: because it skips the frothed milk altogether. Yes, for an iced chai latte, all you need to do is make chai spiced concentrate, then add ice and milk when serving. It’s perfect for making ahead and drinking off of all week.

More tea lattes? Try the Perfect Tea Latte.

This chai latte recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, see Vegan Chai Latte.

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how to make a chai latte

Perfect Chai Latte


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 large or 2 small lattes 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Here’s how to make a chai latte at home…the easy way! This drink is creamy and cozy spiced with the perfect fluffy foam topping.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Homemade Chai Spices
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bag black tea (or 1 teaspoon loose leaf black tea in a tea strainer)
  • 1/2 cup fresh 2% milk (or whole milk)*
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (or simple syrup)

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, whisk together chai spices, water and tea bag and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for 1 minute. Then strain through a fine mesh strainer** into one or two mugs (one for a large latte and two for small).
  2. Rinse the saucepan. Add the milk and maple syrup. Heat the milk to 150 degrees Fahrenheit (measure using a thermometer): this is hot with some small bubbles forming around the outside, but not simmering. The exact temperature is helpful for getting the perfect foam (if you don’t have a thermometer you can approximate).
  3. Use hand frother, whisk, or french press to foam the milk. (The french press is our favorite method: Add the scalding milk to the french press and pump vigorously until frothy, about 100 times for 2% milk or approximately 1 minute; use 50 times for whole milk.) Rest the foam for about 30 seconds, which allows it to set. Go to How to Froth Milk if it’s your first time frothing.
  4. Pour the milk and foam evenly between the mugs (or into 1 mug). Sprinkle with additional chai spices and serve.

Notes

*Fresh milk is best for getting a nice frothy foam. You may find that a container of milk that has been open for several days will no longer froth. For vegan, go to Vegan Chai Latte.

**You can skip straining if desired: the spices will settle to the bottom of the drink.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Chai latte, chai tea latte, how to make a chai latte

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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