Getting Dirty: What Is a Dirty Chai Latte?

Getting Dirty: What Is a Dirty Chai Latte?
Some of you may have heard fellow patrons ordering dirty chai lattes from a “secret menu” at your local coffee spot. You may also have heard: secrets, secrets are no fun. I don’t want to keep secrets from you. If you’ve ever wondered, “What is a dirty chai latte?” when that in-the-know so-and-so at the front of the line orders one, I’m here to tell you: it’s chai with coffee. Now we all know.

The Secret is Out: Dirty Chai is Coffee Chai

Like martinis, jokes, and Harrys, chai lattes can be dirty! And they are delicious. Coffee drinkers and tea lovers of the world unite with this amalgamation of caffeinated beverages.
Traditionally speaking, a dirty chai is a chai latte with a shot of espresso. Plain and simple. Rumor has it that a “very dirty chai” or a “filthy chai” is for those hard-core caffeine enthusiasts who can handle two shots of espresso in one drink. Nervous systems of steel!
For those of us getting dirty from the comfort of our own kitchens (simmer down, now), we may choose to deviate from the standard espresso-based recipe. You may be swankier than I am, but I don’t have an espresso machine in my kitchen. And for any other aspiring at-home baristas suffering from a lack of espresso machine, you can still enjoy a homemade dirty chai without the use of fancy equipment.

Go Ahead – Make My Latte

Dirty Harry and dirty chai have one more thing in common: neither play by the rules. Who says coffee and tea don’t go together? Who says you have to limit yourself to one shot of espresso? When you make a dirty chai latte at home, you’re serving up a vigilante beverage beholden to the law of no recipe. Make it your own!
All you need are three basic ingredients: your chai, your coffee, and your milk.
This is up to you. If you know what you like, use it! Your favorite chai, your favorite coffee, coming together as one... bingo-bango, satisfaction guaranteed!
For those of you open to suggestions, here are some options:

If you like a hearty, Brazilian roast, deep and chocolatey, creamy and smooth, try pairing it with classic Full Moon Masala Chai. The velvety splash of vanilla butternut extract, combined with a heady assortment of chai spices, results in a beautifully balanced, delightfully aromatic tea that will perfectly complement a rich, dark roast.

If you gravitate more towards a light roast, floral and fruity, delicate yet complex, Portland Rose City Chai is calling your name. With its stunning blend of Oregon rose petals, blackberry essence, cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon, Rose City Chai is elegant, intricate, and infinitely welcoming – the ideal accompaniment to a fresh, light roast.

Lovers of sweet coffees may be more drawn to Uplifting Coconut Chai and Stargazer Caramel Maté Chai. The natural sweetness of coconut, enhanced by cinnamon, ginger, and lemongrass and deepened with clove, black pepper, cardamom, and cocoa nibs, makes Uplifting Coconut a wonderful choice for a sweet, slightly nutty coffee blend. Stargazer Caramel Maté features just the right amount of caramel extract to heighten the chai spices without overwhelming them with sweetness, and the orange peel offsets the sugar and spice notes with the loveliest hint of citrus. Just right for a bright, fruity coffee, or a creamy, caramel-y blend.

For anyone who likes coffee with a nice, strong body, Rainy Day Pu-erh can hold its own against even the sturdiest java. Aged and fermented dark tea provides a full and earthy base, rounded out by cinnamon bark, ginger root, anise, and orange peel. This robust, grounded mixture is augmented with sweet cinnamon extract – reminiscent of brown sugar – giving the blend the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, depth and vigor. If you’ve never tried a pu-erh, you’re in for a treat!

Once your coffee and tea are chosen, grab your favorite milk from the refrigerator. Cows, almonds, coconuts, cashews – if it can be milked, it can be used in your dirty chai. Maybe you zazz it up and add a little vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom to your milk as it heats for extra depth of flavor. Or, if you’re a purist and like your coffee and tea straight-up, no add-ins, feel free to skip the milk altogether. (Technically you won’t end up with a latte, but remember, you’re a vigilante barista! You’ll make a milk-less latte if you want to, and no one can tell you otherwise.)
To brew the coffee and the tea, you can use whatever methods you prefer. French press and traditional coffee maker both work great for the joe; for the chai, you can use a concentrate or simply steep it as you would any other tea. You can brew it strong or infuse a cup of hot water with the merest idea of chai. It’s up to you.
If you love iced chai and iced coffee, cold-brewing is an excellent choice. Just pop your drinks in the fridge – either together or separately – before you go to bed, then froth up your milk the next day, throw it all together, toss in a few ice cubes, and voila! A beautifully iced dirty chai.

Whip It Good

One final decision: frothing your milk (assuming you choose to include it). Milk frothing seems like an advanced technique that requires sophisticated tools, but no! If you have a whisk (or, some have suggested, a container with a tightly sealed lid), you can froth milk. It’s simply a matter of incorporating air into the milk and forming bubbles. If you warm your milk on the stove, whisk it continuously as it heats, which not only prevents burning, but has the added bonus of working up a lovely froth by the time your milk reaches its desired temperature.
If you’re thinking, “Why would I heat milk on the stove? That’s what microwaves are for,” then you can either whisk the milk once it’s heated, or – I haven’t tried this myself, but I’ve seen it recommended – pour your milk into a well-sealed container (emphasis on well-sealed!) and shake, shake, shake it into a frothy delight. Please, if you try this method, test it with a tiny shake before you give it your all; I don’t want to be responsible for milk exploding all over you and your kitchen – I can’t have that on my conscience.
Alternatively, you could invest in a stick frother if you think you’ll be making a lot of at-home lattes or don’t want to put in the elbow grease. I found mine for ten bucks at a kitchen store and it works like a dream.

Getting Dirty

You’ve chosen your chai. You’ve chosen your coffee. You’ve chosen your milk and you know how to froth it. Now it’s simply a matter of proportions. Again, the classic recipe calls for a serving of chai with a shot of espresso. But if you’re a coffee fiend who happens to like the taste of chai, you could easily reverse that ratio. If you’re an equal opportunist, you could split it 50-50. Or any combination in between. Again, you know what you like.
So concoct your ideal dirty chai that no barista could compete with. Then tell us about it on social media @plumdeluxe. Tell your friends! Tell strangers. Tell your barista. Tell as many people as you can, because the answer to the question, “What is a dirty chai latte?” shouldn’t be kept secret any longer.

Classic Dirty Chai Latte

  • 8 oz chai tea of choice
  • 1 ounce of strongly brewed coffee
  • 2 ounces milk
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish (optional)

Brew your chai and coffee according to taste.
Heat your milk over medium heat on the stove, whisking continuously to get a nice froth.
Combine chai and coffee in mug, then top with frothed milk.
Sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!

A Lot of Latte Dirty Chai

  • 8 ounces milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon loose leaf chai
  • 1 ounce strongly brewed coffee (or more to taste)
  • Ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom for garnish

Directions – Stove Top:
Combine milk and tea leaves in saucepan.
Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning and to begin frothing.
Once heated, taste for flavor. If your chai has reached the desired strength, strain into a mug. If not, steep for a couple more minutes, or until desired strength has been reached.
Whisk vigorously, or use a stick frother to froth your milk-tea mixture.
Add coffee. Stir to combine.
Sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy!
Directions – Microwave:
Heat milk in microwave until hot.
Add tea leaves and steep for desired time, then strain.
Create froth by either:
  • Pouring milk into a tightly sealed container and shaking vigorously
  • Whisking vigorously
  • Using a stick frother
Combine chai and coffee in mug, reserving a bit of foam to top off the beverage, if desired. Stir to combine.
Top with remaining foam.
Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Enjoy!

Customized Dirty Chai

  • 1-8 ounces chai (steeped in water, milk of choice, or your preferred combination)
  • 1-8 ounces coffee (brewed to desired strength)
  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom to garnish (if desired)

Brew coffee and steep chai according to taste.
If using milk, froth with preferred method (shaking in tightly sealed container, whisking vigorously, or using a stick frother).
Add chai and coffee to preferred mug, reserving a bit of foam to top off the beverage, if desired. Stir to combine.
Top with remaining foam.
Sprinkle with garnish of choice. Enjoy!

Erica Jolly

Erica Jolly is a born and raised Pacific North Westerner. Rainwater flows through her veins. She is a tea drinker by day, wine drinker by night, and lover of food, yoga, and rambling conversations.
Back to Article

Featured product

More from:
Back to Article