Coffee Facts

Chai Drinks at Starbucks: Embracing Spice and Savory Bliss

Chai is an excellent drink for anyone who wants a slight caffeine kick and spicy flavor. This tea is the base of many popular drinks at Starbucks. Have it in its most basic form (sans add-ins) with milk as a tea latte, or mixed with flavored syrup or sauce in a secret menu drink!

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Listen up, chai lovers! We’re talking to you — especially those who get your dose of the spiced black tea from Starbucks Coffee. In addition to java, the beloved coffee shop chain has a handful of chai-based drinks on its menu, and we’ll introduce you to them all. We’ll also share a few secret menu chai-tems (see what we did there?) for you to try that are ideal for the upcoming fall season!

Chai Drinks at Starbucks

What Is Chai, and How Does It Taste?

Chai is but one of many black tea varieties in the U.S., but in its origin country of India, chai is the standard tea.

Black tea is chai’s base, and these leaves usually hail from Assam; tea from this Indian region is full-bodied and flavorful. Then come the spices, although the specific ones that make it into the cup depend on a family’s recipe.

Usually, a cup of chai contains cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, ginger, black pepper, and clove. But since the recipe varies depending on who makes it, it isn’t unusual to detect hints of other warming spices like coriander and nutmeg on your taste buds.

Once brewed, the spiced black tea is enhanced with a splash of whole milk and sugar. It’s still chai without these two ingredients. However, the cozy drink usually isn’t consumed in India without them. So, add them for the most authentic sipping experience possible.

How to Add Chai to a Starbucks Drink

Now that you know how India makes this type of tea, let’s look at how our friends at Starbucks make chai.

Starbucks adds chai flavors to its drinks with one of two methods, and which one the barista uses depends on the beverage they’re making.

  • Tazo chai concentrate: A few pumps of chai concentrate give Starbucks’s chai lattes and Frappuccinos its flavor. You can add it to vanilla sweet cream cold foam to make a chai-flavored topping for an iced drink, too.
  • Teavana chai tea bags: Every Starbucks location has a supply of Teavana tea on hand for brewing hot chai. The loose-leaf black tea bags are also available through other retailers for home-brewing endeavors.

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Roasty Roundup: Chai Drinks at Starbucks

What should you order if you’re at Starbucks and in the mood for this spiced black tea? Read on!

Brewed Chai Tea

First up is brewed chai tea, a simple yet satisfying hot drink that ticks all your boxes if you want something comforting and warm.

All the good folks at Starbucks do is dunk a bag of Teavana leaves into hot water. While the leaves are steeping, the tea’s bold flavors, complete with clove, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger, fill your cup.

For an authentic cup, similar to one enjoyed in chai’s home country of India, ask for a splash of milk (regular milk is the standard, but feel free to go the non-dairy route with soy, oat, or almond milk) and liquid sugar.

Unsweetened Iced Tea
Image Credit: Erik Mclean at Unsplash

Chai Tea Latte

First, we need to tell you that even though “chai tea latte” is printed on the Starbucks menu, that isn’t technically the correct way to order the drink. The word chai means tea, so when you say chai tea latte, you’re saying “tea tea latte.” And that sounds silly. But we digress.

The basic chai latte is a Starbucks fan favorite. The blend of chai concentrate, hot water, and milk (non-dairy milk, if you please) warms you from the inside out and provides a nice energy boost, thanks to its 95 milligrams* of caffeine.

*The chai latte’s caffeine content varies according to drink size. This measurement comes from a grande (16-ounce) serving.

Iced Chai Tea Latte

The iced chai tea latte is the chilled version of Starbucks’ regular chai latte. Like the hot latte, the iced version has notes of cinnamon and clove, and a splash of your favorite type of milk makes it creamy.

Chai Créme Frappuccino

Starbucks doesn’t exclude Frappuccino fanatics from the fun; that’s why there’s a chai Frappuccino.

The Chai Frappuccino has a creme base — so, no coffee — but that doesn’t mean the blended beverage is caffeine-free. A grande serving of this ice cube, milk, creme Frappuccino syrup, and Teavana chai tea concentrate has around 40 milligrams of caffeine.

woman holding Starbucks Iced Latte in her hand
Image Credit: Mikita Yo at Unsplash

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Secret Menu Selections

Only four chai drinks hold permanent spots on the Starbucks menu. However, there are plenty of chai-based secret menu items, which we’ve detailed below:

TikTok Iced Chai Latte

This drink went viral on TikTok a few years ago. But given its name, you probably guessed that.

Don’t ask a barista for a “TikTok iced chai latte, please,” unless you want them to look at you strangely and ask what you’re talking about.

Instead, order a Starbucks iced chai tea latte as your base drink, and add oat milk, brown sugar syrup, and vanilla sweet cream cold foam.

Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte

Made of regular or dairy-free milk, water, chai concentrate, pumpkin spice sauce, and a dusting of pumpkin spice topping, the Starbucks pumpkin spice chai tea latte screams, “Fall is here!” whether you have it hot or iced.

Pro-tip: Top this off with a dollop of pumpkin cream cold foam for an extra kick of autumnal cheer.

Starbucks Coffee
Image Credit: kevs on Unsplash

Dirty Chai Latte

The dirty chai is probably one of the least complex chai latte modifications out there, and it’s the perfect drink for anyone who loves tea and coffee equally.

The Starbucks chai tea latte is the base drink here. Then, have the barista add a shot of espresso to the cup. Go for two servings of espresso if you have a particularly long day to make it through. That’s the dirty chai latte! Try it hot or iced.

Skinny Chai Latte

A skinny latte is a blend of espresso and non-fat milk. A skinny chai latte is no different. But instead of espresso, the barista will combine chai concentrate with non-fat milk rather than the two percent they usually make it with.

Keto Frappuccino
Image Credit: StockSnap at Pixabay

Gingerbread Chai Latte

We can’t say no to gingerbread, especially when Christmas is close. It’s cozy, sweet, and yummy. Plus, the iconic cookie’s flavor pairs beautifully with spiced chai.

During the winter, when your local Starbucks has gingerbread syrup in stock, order a hot or iced chai latte with gingerbread syrup, whipped cream, and molasses drizzle. If you weren’t feeling the holiday spirit before, you will after one sip.

Iced Shaken Espresso
Image Credit: Álvaro Bernal at Unsplash

Vanilla Chai Tea Latte

The vanilla chai latte isn’t on Starbucks’s regular menu, but people order it so often that it probably should be.

People love chai with vanilla for several reasons. First, it’s easy to order; ask for a chai latte with a few pumps of vanilla syrup. Second, it tastes good! The spicy tea and sweet vanilla complement each other well. That fact is evident whether you’re drinking the hot or iced version.

Cookie Butter Chai Latte

Is anyone else tempted to eat cookie butter straight from the jar, one heaping spoonful at a time? If you’re nodding your head, then this secret menu item will probably be your new favorite Starbucks chai drink.

This beverage starts as most of the others here do: with a regular chai latte. You can use whatever milk you’d like, but soy milk seems to be the majority’s pick for this recipe.

Then, ask the barista to add brown sugar syrup and brown butter topping. And there you have it — the ideal drink for major cookie butter lovers!

Starbucks in plastic cup with straw
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White Chocolate Cinnamon Chai Latte

If a white chocolate mocha is your favorite java drink, you’ll enjoy a white chocolate cinnamon chai latte, too.

Ask for a chai latte with white mocha sauce and a few pumps of cinnamon dolce syrup. The resulting drink’s delicious taste easily satisfies a sweet tooth and gives you a mild jolt of caffeine.

So, in other words, it’s an excellent choice for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Caramel Apple Chai

Caramel apple isn’t just a fruity treat to eat in the fall. It’s also the inspiration for one of Starbucks’s warm, non-coffee beverages, the caramel apple spice.

The caramel apple spice can easily turn into a chai tea drink with a few substitutions. Replace half of the drink’s cinnamon dolce syrup with chai concentrate, and once the barista tops it off with a dollop of whipped cream and caramel drizzle, you’ve got a caramel apple chai.

(P.S. Like most other secret menu options, this beverage goes by many names. But we like to call it “caramel apple chai-der.” Say it. it’s fun.)

Starbucks Frappuccino drinks on the table
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What flavors go well with chai?

The good thing about a Starbucks chai tea latte — or any chai latte, for that matter — is that it blends well with many flavored syrups! Popular picks are regular or sugar-free vanilla, cinnamon dolce, and brown sugar syrup.

Some Starbucks lovers might want to experiment with chai and chocolate. So, they ask for a few pumps of white mocha or mocha sauce stirred into their latte.

What is a dirty chai latte?

Dirty chai lattes are chai lattes (spiced black tea with milk) with one or more espresso shots added.

People drink dirty chai lattes for a few reasons:

  • Boosted caffeine content. Both chai and shots of espresso contain caffeine. So, naturally, when you put them together, you end up with a higher caffeine content than if you had one of the drinks on its own.
  • Less bitterness. Not everyone likes the taste of coffee. However, the spices in chai offset any of the brew’s bitterness, making it more palatable to those who don’t love java.
  • Satisfying taste. It tastes good. We don’t need to say more.

Is Starbucks chai tea good for you?

Good news, tea lovers – chai has lots of health benefits! This beverage is rich in antioxidants, boosts heart health, increases energy (minus the jitters that come with other caffeinated drinks), helps fight off colds, and more. Whether you bought it from Starbucks or elsewhere, chai is super for your body.

However, remember that add-ins change things. So, if your idea of “good for you” is something with the lowest calorie count possible, then a chai latte wouldn’t be a good choice for you because of the milk. However, regular brewed chai would.

The shorter answer to this question is this: Starbucks chai is good for you; all chai is. However, determining if the way you consume it is good for you depends on your health, fitness, and/or weight management goals.

How much sugar is in a chai tea latte?

The amount of sugar present in a chai latte from one of Starbucks’s coffee shop locations depends on the size of the drink.

Hot Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks

  • Short (8 ounces): 21 grams of sugar
  • Tall (12 ounces): 32 grams of sugar
  • Grande (16 ounces): 42 grams of sugar
  • Venti (20 ounces): 53 grams of sugar

Iced Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks

  • Tall (12 ounces): 31 grams of sugar
  • Grande (16 ounces): 42 grams of sugar
  • Venti (24 ounces): 61 grams of sugar

These nutrition facts come from these drinks’ default recipes. Making any customizations — asking for a different milk, adding flavored syrups, etc. — will alter the beverage’s sugar content.

Does Starbucks chai have milk?

While regular chai from Starbucks doesn’t have milk, a chai latte from the coffeehouse franchise does. But that doesn’t mean dairy-free customers can’t enjoy one. Starbucks has a selection of non-dairy milk alternatives you can add to your latte, including oat, soy, almond, or coconut milk.

Try a Chai Drink at Starbucks

Starbucks Coffee isn’t just home to freshly brewed java beverages – the chain also keeps an impressive supply of tea drinks on the menu, including delicious chai.

So, the next time you’re at Starbucks and in the mood for something other than your usual latte, try a chai-based drink. You’ll still get a decent dosage of caffeine, but the spicy black tea’s flavor will provide a nice break from coffee when your taste buds crave something out of the ordinary.

Happy Caffeinating!

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