Curl up with a blanket and this easy chai latte - it's just the thing to warm you up on brisk fall mornings and chilly winter evenings. This drink is sweet, creamy, and full of cozy spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. It's also made completely from scratch! For an extra boost of caffeine, just add coffee to make it a dirty chai.
In the world of cozy beverages, does it get any cozier than a chai latte? A steaming cup of tea, creamy frothed milk, and a mix of warm spices - there is truly no cozier combination. I've had my fair share of good chai at coffee shops, but there's nothing more I want to do on a cold day than hunker down at home.
The best of both worlds? A comfy couch, a warm blanket, and this easy chai latte recipe. Throw in a spiced muffin, a slice of Baileys coffee cake, or a thick slab of homemade pumpkin bread, and I can guarantee you won't be missing Starbucks anytime soon.
What is a chai latte?
What most people in the United States consider a chai latte is a derivative of masala chai, a drink that originated in India. While the word "chai" simply means "tea" in many languages (including Hindi), a chai latte refers to a combination of black tea, frothy steamed milk, and a mixture of spices.
Most recipes call for cinnamon, ginger, clove, black peppercorn, cardamom, and star anise in this milk tea - I like to add vanilla to mine as well. Combined with your sweetener of choice, it makes a drink that's inherently comforting: perfectly sweet and creamy, with the naturally rich flavor of black tea amplified by fragrant warm spices.
Chai latte ingredients
Now that you have a basic idea of what traditional chai tea lattes consist of, let's take a closer look at the ingredients used in this recipe.
Using whole spices vs ground spices
Many chai latte recipes call for at least some ground spices, presumably because they're more widely available and don't have to be infused like whole spices do. That being said, I feel that you need whole spices to make a perfect chai latte. Here's why:
- Whole spices stay fresh longer and have a stronger flavor. Since this latte gets its signature chai flavor from various spices, I think it makes the most sense to use spices that are as fresh and potent as possible.
- Ground spices tend to leave a gritty texture in drinks. I find that when ground spices are used in beverages (like many pumpkin spice lattes), they often give the drink an unpleasant mouthfeel. Whole spices can easily be strained out of any liquid before drinking, for a smoother finished product. This is also why I use whole spices in my pumpkin cream cold brew.
What kind of milk to use
As with all of my coffee and latté recipes, I prefer (and highly recommend) using whole milk in this chai recipe. It's creamy and naturally sweet, and its neutral flavor blends well with both coffee and tea. While not as creamy, 2% milk will also work!
If you prefer to use non-dairy milk, I'd suggest using whatever your go-to is for lattes - many people like almond milk, although I personally prefer oat milk.
What sweetener to use
I like honey in this recipe, but brown sugar and maple syrup are all also great options for sweetening a chai latte. Their warm undertones compliment the spiced tea well and contribute to the overall flavor rather than merely adding sweetness.
That being said, granulated sugar, simple syrup, or really any other sweetener can be used if preferred.
What type of tea to use
While you can use any variety of black tea to make a chai latte, Darjeeling and Assam teas tend to be the most widely recommended. I often use Ceylon tea as well. If your options are limited, you can usually find English breakfast tea in most grocery stores, and this will work just fine.
Using tea bags vs loose leaf tea
True tea lovers will tell you that loose leaf tea is the superior choice for a more full-bodied flavor, but I typically make this recipe with tea bags for simplicity's sake. Do your research when purchasing - even tea bags can be high quality if sourced well.
If you decide to use loose leaf tea, I'd suggest starting with about 2 teaspoons of tea per latte, and adjusting as needed to suit your personal taste.
How to make a chai latte from scratch
As written, this recipe makes enough for two lattes. You can use the chai concentrate immediately, or make it ahead.
Making the chai concentrate
The key to a flavorful chai latte begins with infusing a chai spice blend into hot water. To do this, combine water, cinnamon sticks, star anise (chopped), cardamom pods (split), cloves, ginger root, a vanilla bean (split), and black peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove over medium-high heat.
Then, remove the saucepan from the heat, cover it, and let it steep for 1 hour. Strain the spices from the water using a fine-mesh strainer, reserving the liquid to use as your chai concentrate.
Making the lattes
Place the chai concentrate back in a medium saucepan and bring to a near boil (about 205ºF-210ºF) over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, prep two mugs with 1-2 tea bags each, depending on how strong you like your tea.
Pour the hot chai concentrate directly over the tea bag(s) in each mug and let them steep for 5-6 minutes. Note: To use loose leaf tea, add the tea leaves directly to the saucepan after warming the concentrate. Let them steep in the saucepan and then strain them out.
Meanwhile, froth the milk and honey (or other sweetener) together in a milk frother. Remove the tea bags from the mugs and top each cup with an equal amount of hot milk before serving.
Making iced chai
For an iced chai latte (perfect for those hot summer months!) follow the same steps above to heat the concentrate and brew the tea. Then, chill the chai tea concentrate in the refrigerator until it's cooled completely.
Once cool, you can use it right away or store it for up to a week. Assemble your iced lattes by combining with cold-frothed milk and honey, and serving over ice.
What to do if you don't own a milk frother
In order to give this latte a thick, creamy layer of foam on top, I use an electric milk frother. It may seem like an unnecessary kitchen appliance to own, but if you make lattes often, I promise it will change your life.
That being said, if you don't own one and don't plan on buying one, a good alternative is to use a mason jar. Pour the milk into a large jar, shake it vigorously, and then microwave it for 30-60 seconds. The foam won't be quite as fine and velvety as what you get with a frother, but still SO much better than regular steamed milk.
Make a decaf chai latte
Black tea leaves naturally contain caffeine, so most chai lattes are caffeinated. However, you can easily make this homemade version using decaffeinated black tea instead. I'd recommend using tea that's been decaffeinated using the Swiss water or CO2 method - these are both non-toxic, chemical free ways to remove caffeine from tea and coffee. Allegro is my go-to brand for decaf black tea.
Make a dirty chai
To make this a dirty chai latte, just add 4 ounces of strongly-brewed coffee or 2 shots of espresso. When adding coffee I also recommend increasing the honey or other sweetener to 1 ½ tablespoons.
Recipe tips and common questions
Yes! Although I prefer using whole milk, any dairy-free or vegan milk alternative can be substituted in this recipe. I'd recommend using one with a neutral flavor and no sugar added, since this latte is already sweetened. Oat milk would be a great choice!
For a vegan chai latte, use maple syrup or brown sugar as a sweetener rather than honey.
Absolutely! Adding collagen peptides to this latte is any easy way to get a little extra protein in your diet, and it doesn't affect the taste at all. I always use Vital Proteins, and recommend adding 1 scoop per latte.
This recipe will make enough chai concentrate for two lattes, but you can easily scale it to make extra. I like to make a triple batch that will last for a week's worth of lattes. There are buttons included in the recipe card below to automatically scale the ingredient measurements if you decide to do this.
If you're not using the chai concentrate immediately - or if you make a bigger batch - store it in a mason jar in the refrigerator until ready to use. It should last for at least a couple of weeks.
Yes! While you should always verify the ingredients in any store-bought chai latte mix, all of the ingredients traditionally used in this tea latte are naturally gluten-free.
More homemade coffee shop drinks
Starbucks can step aside - here are more easy recipes for DIY coffee shop beverages!
Easy Homemade Chai Latte
Curl up with a blanket and this easy-to-make chai tea latte - it's just the thing to warm you up on brisk fall mornings and chilly winter evenings. This drink is sweet, creamy, and full of cozy spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. For an extra boost of caffeine, just add coffee to make it a dirty chai!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Steep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hr 15 minutes
- Yield: 2 lattes 1x
- Category: beverages
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: Indian
(yields 14-16 ounces)
- 2 cups (16 ounces) water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 star anise, chopped
- 8-10 cardamom pods, split
- 4 whole cloves
- ½" slice ginger root
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 14-16 ounces chai concentrate (from above)
- 2-4 good-quality black tea bags
- 1 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
- 2-3 tablespoons honey or sweetener of choice, to taste
- In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients for the chai concentrate. Bring to a boil on the stove and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 1 hour. Strain the spices out of the water before using. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate if not using immediately.
To make Chai Lattes:
- Transfer the strained chai concentrate back into a medium saucepan. Bring to a near-boil on the stove (205°F-210°F on an instant-read thermometer). Meanwhile, prep two mugs with 1-2 bags of black tea each, depending on desired strength.
- Pour the hot concentrate over the tea bags in each mug, dividing evenly between each. Let steep for 5-6 minutes. Press excess water out of tea bags before removing.
- While tea is steeping, combine milk and honey and froth using a milk frother or other method of choice (see post above for more info.). Divide frothed milk evenly between the two mugs of tea and serve immediately.
- Use decaffeinated black tea for decaf chai lattes.
- To use loose leaf tea instead of tea bags, start with 2 teaspoons of tea leaves per latte, and adjust to taste. Add tea leaves to hot concentrate in saucepan after step 1, cover, and steep for 5-6 minutes before straining into mugs.
- Unsweetened dairy-free or vegan milk can be used if desired. I'd recommend oat milk.
- Honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar can be used to sweeten this chai latte. Use one of the latter two options for a vegan latte.
- Optionally, add a scoop of collagen peptides to each latte for added protein.
Storing chai concentrate:
- Concentrate can be stored in a lidded mason jar in the refrigerator until ready to use. It should last for at least a couple of weeks.
Other recipe notes:
- After the concentrate has boiled it will have decreased in volume slightly. Use the full amount for 2 lattes, or 7-8 ounces per latte.
- To "froth" milk without a milk frother, pour the milk into a large jar, shake it vigorously, and then microwave for 30-60 seconds.