Vanilla Chai Latte

A vanilla chai latte combines the spices of masala chai with the foam of a latte! This fancy tea latte tastes like it’s from a coffee shop.

Vanilla chai latte

How cozy does this cup look? Yes, this vanilla chai latte is the equivalent of putting on a fuzzy sweater and curling up by a roaring fireplace. In fact, maybe it will help me with my aversion to making it through the winter! This tea is flavored with the beautiful spices of masala chai: cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Add to it the frothed milk foam from a cafe latte, and you’ll feel like you’re drinking a fancy tea latte from your local coffee shop. Here’s how to make it (and why not to order a chai tea latte).

Why not to say chai tea latte

First up: let’s talk terminology. Avoid saying the words “vanilla chai tea latte.” In fact, ban the phase chai tea from your vocabulary all together. Why? The word chai translates to “tea” in Hindi, so saying chai tea is 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 appropriate a rich Indian cultural tradition.

Vanilla chai latte

So what’s a vanilla chai latte?

A chai latte is a Western invention: it takes traditional masala chai, the milky spiced tea from India, and combines it with frothy steamed milk of a latte. The mashup was popularized by Starbucks in the 1990’s. 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 vanilla chai latte is gently spiced and subtly sweet, with a beautiful vanilla essence. It combines 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.

Make a homemade chai spices blend

Masala chai spices can include many different ingredients based on the cook, just like curry powder. This Homemade Chai Spice mix uses common chai spices, but note there are many more used regionally in Indian blends. Often traditional masala chai will use whole spices, or require the cook to grind whole spices in a mortar and pestle. This blend uses ground spices for simplicity, and it also allows you to use this mix in baking recipes. Here’s what you’ll need for the chai spices:

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

How to froth milk for a vanilla chai latte

The most important part of a vanilla chai latte is frothing the milk! You’ll need a little technique to get the perfect foam, and some equipment. If it’s your first time frothing, we highly recommend reading How to Froth Milk before you start.

  • The best milk for a tea latte? Our favorite is 2% milk. Use whole milk if you like a richer latte, but avoid skim.*
  • Heat the milk to 150 degrees (scalding). The temperature is important for the perfect frothy foam. Use a food thermometer for best results. Or wait until the milk 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. We used our French press to froth the milk and it worked great. You can also use a hand frother (which works even better!), or simply vigorously whisk the milk. For the French press, pump 100 times or 1 minute: this should result in beautiful, creamy and frothy foam!

*Want a vegan vanilla chai latte? These tips work only for dairy milk. Go to our Vegan Chai Latte post for how to froth non-dairy milk.

Sweeteners for this vanilla chai latte

This vanilla chai latte is crafted to be just sweet enough! If you’re used to super sugary drinks from Starbucks, you can add a little more sweetener in advance. Here’s what we like to use to sweeten it just right:

  • Maple syrup (favorite). Maple syrup is our favorite natural sweetener for drinks: it adds nuance without maple flavor. (We also use it for cocktails.)
  • Simple syrup. Simple syrup has more of an intensely sweet, straightforward flavor.
  • Honey or agave syrup. These natural sweeteners also add gentle sweetness.
Vanilla chai latte

More fancy tea drinks & tea lattes

Love drinking tea lattes? Here are a few more ways to enjoy the flavor of chai spices:

  • 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.
  • Perfect Tea Latte Make a straight-up tea latte without the spices: even simpler.
  • Vegan Chai Latte Make it plant based by using oat milk! This is the best type of milk for a latte because it froths up like dairy milk.
  • Dirty Chai Latte Even better, make it a Dirty Chai! Add a shot of espresso to your chai latte (our favorite).
  • Masala Chai Go traditional and enjoy this beautiful masala chai, sans foam.
  • Iced Chai Latte This sweetly refreshing tea latte is made with black tea, cozy spices and milk.

This recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, plant-based and dairy-free, go to Vegan Chai Latte.

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Vanilla chai latte

Vanilla Chai Latte


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

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

Description

A vanilla chai latte combines the spices of masala chai with the foam of a latte! This fancy tea latte tastes like it’s from a coffee shop.


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 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (or honey, agave, 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, vanilla, 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 a 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.

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

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Tea

Keywords: Vanilla chai latte, vanilla chai tea latte, chai tea 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.

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Lisa Donoho
    October 13, 2020 at 8:55 pm

    I just made this using Harney & Sons decaf hot cinnamon spice tea. Amazing! I only used 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

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