Making a Dirty Chai Latte

Tea to the British people is like water to a fish and has its roots in history that date back to the early colonization of India and the tea trade. One honest mistake that occurred in Covent Garden created a new type of coffee drink called the Dirty Chai Latte.

A Short History Of Covent Garden

Near the center of London, just a stone’s throw from Westminster and Camden this area went through many cultural and design changes. It was well-known for its vegetable and farmer’s market. Toward the beginning of the 18th century, many taverns, coffee houses, and pop-up theaters opened up. Because the area was frequented by many tourists, it was also known for the world’s oldest trade- prostitution.

Covent Garden on the “Woodcut” map of the 1560s, with surrounding wall marked in green

Covent Garden was also home to so many brothels that the British government needed to pass an act of parliament to control the widespread prostitution. Since the majority of Covent-Garden was best known for prostitutes, it was listed in reference books documenting this era. As time passed, Covent Garden evolved further in the early 1970s and created a modern approach to redeveloping the area.

origins of Dirty Chai Latte

People drinking Dirty Chai Latte in Covent-Garden

The construction of the New Covent Garden Market was located just 3 miles from a new location that eased traffic problems that developed in the original Covent Garden location. By the 1980s, this new market found a comfortable home to coffee houses, small shops, pubs, and craft market goods. One coffee house within the new Covent Garden center in the 1990s was unintentionally setting the stage for an entirely new kind of espresso-based drink.

One Mistake Gets A Bit Dirty

A man making Dirty Chai Latte

As far as we can tell, this story is kind of murky for the background-origin. No names were ever recorded and the coffee shop where it happened is never spoken about. All that is known about the Dirty Chai Latte is that it was evidently a mistake on the part of the female barista. It seems that a young American guy who was touring the UK in the 1990s, was visiting a coffee shop located in the New Covent Garden Market, asked for a Masala Chai tea.

This is a tea that is infused with spices and is served with steamed milk. In the haste of misjudging the ingredients on the coffee work counter, the barista accidentally poured a single shot of espresso into the tea by mistake. A mistake that any barista would want to soon forget about! Hence, the botched order was noticed by the American, and curiosity ensued.

According to the legend, the American tourist was delighted by the mistake and raved about how unique the combination gave to this spiced tea. As a result, the Dirty Chai Latte was born and has since resurfaced in the US as an exotic espresso/spiced tea variant. No matter where you go, the name has gone through many changes over the years. It seems the unknown dude who liked traveling would ask each coffee house he visited for the same recipe.

Each time, a different coffee shop would give it a signature name. It’s been called a Tough Guy Chai, Red Eye Chai, Turbo-chai-ger (like turbocharger), a Chai-Charger, and even a Java Chai. To give this even more mystery to the origin of this spicy caffeine-laced drink, it’s also part of the Starbucks secret menu. A menu reputed to be circulating at select Starbucks all over the country.

Now, to be honest, Starbucks doesn’t actually have a secret menu, since they are all unofficial. But with 180+ supposedly available drinks, they might be able to qualify to become genders on this top ranking list

Can You Make A Dirty Chai Latte Without Masala Chai Tea?

Masala-Chai-tea in glass bowl in white dish on table

There are obvious differences between chai tea and masala tea in terms of taste. You can make a Dirty Chai Latte without using Malasa chai tea. The difference all starts with understanding the spices. Masala chai tea is generally black tea with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, mint, and black pepper. It also depends on the brand of Masala chai that you purchase.

Chai tea is also black tea as a base ingredient but will also add cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, cloves. Depending on the mixture, they might also add nutmeg, fennel, coriander, pepper, or fennel seed. Not every chai tea follows the same recipe aside from the black tea leaves and cardamom. While most people will notice the cinnamon, clove, and ginger added for zing flavor.

Some might even go so far as to claim that Malasa chai and chai tea are exactly the same. Only your taste buds will know the difference, so if you like the flavor, there might not be much difference between these two types of spiced tea. One further hint is to always add fresh cinnamon sticks to your tea to get the best flavors. Fresh spices can bring out the intense spiced flavors that tend to blend well with a shot of espresso added.

Dirty Chai Latte Recipes

You don’t need to go to a coffee shop to make a dirty chai latte at home. You’ll need some fresh spices that enhance the flavor of your chai tea though. We recommend cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and nutmeg. This brings out a nice spiced tea that will tone down the overt spicy flavors that most chai tea mixtures often supply. The rest is up to your imagination and how you prepare this drink.

Hot And Dirty Chai Latte recipe

Dirty Chai Latte

Make a traditional Dirty Chai Latte with ½ cup masala chai tea, a shot (or 2) of espresso and ⅓ cup of milk. Sweeten as needed with honey.
Brewing Time 4 minutes
Total Time 4 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine european
Servings 1 Serving
Calories 158 kcal


  • 1 Shot Espresso
  • 2 Bags Masala chai tea (or 3 tbsp. chai latte powder mix)
  • ½ Cup Water
  • Cup Milk


  • Brew your espresso using a Moka pot or Aeropress coffee maker. If you have an espresso machine, this will do fine as well.
  • Brew your Masala tea in a mug of water-filled halfway. Add your cinnamon stick and optional spices as it brews.
  • Remove the tea bag and cinnamon stick before adding your espresso shot. Now take cup of cold milk and use the steam wand to warm it up and keep the wand below the liquid line.
  • This will help to create microbubbles instead of frothy milk. You can also use low-fat milk or almond milk as an alternative. When it’s heated enough, you add this to your tea and espresso mixture. Top it with a little bit of milk foam and sprinkle with some nutmeg or cinnamon powder.
Keyword chai latte
Iced Dirty Chai Latte recipe

Iced Dirty Chai Latte

Prep Time 15 minutes
Brewing Time 4 minutes
Total Time 19 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine european
Servings 1 Serving
Calories 167 kcal


  • 1 or 2 Shots Espresso
  • 2 Bags Masala chai tea (or 3 tbsp. chai latte powder mix)
  • ½ Cup Water
  • Cup Cold milk
  • Ice cubes


  • Brew your espresso and set this aside to allow it to cool down. You can place it inside the fridge for faster cooling.
  • Now add your Masala tea bag to half a cup of hot water and let brew for a couple of minutes. When it’s done, let this chill in the fridge as well.
  • Now you grab a tall drinking glass and add half-filled with ice cubes. Take your milk and shake it inside a smoothie mixer or travel thermos filled with water-filled plastic ice cubes.
  • Give your milk a good shake until it gets to be frothy and smooth. The plastic ice cubes are great for chilling your milk but not watering it down at all. Now you add your chilled chai tea, espresso into the ice cube drinking glass followed by your shaken milk.
  • Add some powdered nutmeg or cinnamon on top and enjoy. Don’t forget a drinking straw if you like.
Keyword Iced Dirty Chai Latte, tea