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Chai vs. Dirty Chai — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Maham Liaqat — Published on May 29, 2024
Chai is a traditional tea beverage blending black tea, spices, and milk, while a Dirty Chai adds a shot of espresso to the mix, introducing a robust coffee flavor and an extra caffeine kick.
Chai vs. Dirty Chai — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Chai and Dirty Chai


Key Differences

Chai, originating from India, is a spiced milk tea that includes ingredients like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and black tea leaves. It is revered for its aromatic spices and is often sweetened with sugar or honey. On the other hand, a Dirty Chai is a modern twist on traditional chai, incorporating a shot of espresso into the beverage. This addition not only intensifies the caffeine content but also adds the distinct, bold flavor of coffee, creating a unique fusion of chai and espresso.
While traditional chai focuses on the harmonious blend of spices and tea, offering a warming and comforting experience, the Dirty Chai caters to those who appreciate the energy boost and flavor profile of both tea and coffee. The espresso shot in a Dirty Chai cuts through the creaminess and spice of the chai, offering a more complex and layered beverage.
The choice between chai and Dirty Chai often comes down to personal preference regarding caffeine tolerance and flavor. Traditional chai drinkers might seek the soothing and aromatic qualities of the spices, whereas Dirty Chai enthusiasts might value the invigorating effect and the nuanced combination of chai and espresso flavors.
Despite their differences, both beverages share a base of spiced tea, making them popular choices in cafes and among tea enthusiasts. Whether one prefers the classic comfort of chai or the energizing twist of a Dirty Chai, both drinks offer a rich tapestry of flavors and experiences.

Comparison Chart

Base Ingredients

Black tea, spices (cardamom, cinnamon, etc.), milk
Chai + shot of espresso

Flavor Profile

Spicy, sweet, creamy
Spicy with a bold coffee undertone

Caffeine Content

Moderate, from black tea
Higher, due to added espresso


Traditional Indian beverage
Modern variation of chai


To enjoy a spiced, milky tea
To combine the flavors of chai and espresso with an extra caffeine boost

Compare with Definitions


Often sweetened with sugar or honey and mixed with milk.
He added a spoonful of honey to his chai for a touch of sweetness.

Dirty Chai

Offers a unique fusion of flavors.
The Dirty Chai intrigued her with its complex fusion of aromatic spices and espresso.


Known for its comforting and aromatic qualities.
The comforting spices in her chai made it the perfect morning ritual.

Dirty Chai

Suitable for those who enjoy both tea and coffee.
As a lover of both coffee and tea, he found the Dirty Chai to be the perfect choice.


A traditional Indian tea beverage made with spices.
She enjoyed a warm cup of chai on a chilly evening.

Dirty Chai

Higher in caffeine content compared to traditional chai.
The Dirty Chai was her go-to drink for long study sessions.


Served hot, typically in the morning or afternoon.
They shared a pot of chai during their afternoon break.

Dirty Chai

A chai latte with an added shot of espresso.
She ordered a Dirty Chai for an extra boost of energy in the morning.


Involves brewing black tea with spices like cardamom and cinnamon.
The aroma of brewing chai, filled with spices, filled the kitchen.

Dirty Chai

Combines the spiciness of chai with the boldness of coffee.
The Dirty Chai offered a perfect balance between spice and robust coffee flavor.


A beverage made from spiced black tea, milk, and sugar or honey.


Ellipsis of masala chai, a beverage made with black teas, steamed milk and sweet spices, based loosely on Indian recipes.

Common Curiosities

What makes a Chai "Dirty"?

Adding a shot of espresso to chai makes it "Dirty," blending the flavors of chai and coffee.

How does the caffeine content in Dirty Chai compare to regular coffee?

Dirty Chai typically has a higher caffeine content than a standard cup of chai due to the added espresso, but the exact amount can vary depending on the strength of the espresso and chai used.

Can you make a Dirty Chai with any type of chai?

Yes, a Dirty Chai can be made with any chai base, whether it's a traditional recipe or a chai latte.

Can Dirty Chai be served cold?

Yes, Dirty Chai can be enjoyed as an iced beverage, making it a refreshing option for warmer weather.

What's the best time of day to enjoy a Dirty Chai?

Given its higher caffeine content, a Dirty Chai might be most suitable for the morning or early afternoon to avoid affecting sleep patterns.

Can adding more than one shot of espresso make it "Dirtier"?

Yes, adding more espresso shots will make the chai "dirtier," increasing the coffee flavor and caffeine content.

Can Dirty Chai be made dairy-free?

Yes, Dirty Chai can be made with alternative milk options like almond, soy, or oat milk to accommodate dietary preferences.

Is Dirty Chai suitable for coffee lovers?

Absolutely, Dirty Chai is an excellent choice for coffee enthusiasts who are open to exploring the nuanced combination of chai and espresso flavors.

Is it possible to customize the spices in a Dirty Chai?

Definitely, the spice mix in a Dirty Chai can be tailored to personal taste preferences, just like with traditional chai.

What is the cultural significance of traditional chai?

Traditional chai has a deep cultural significance in India and other parts of South Asia, where it is a staple beverage and a symbol of hospitality.

How do you balance the flavors in a Dirty Chai?

Balancing the flavors in a Dirty Chai involves adjusting the spice mix, the strength of the tea, and the espresso shot according to personal taste.

Can Dirty Chai be considered a healthy drink?

While Dirty Chai can be part of a balanced diet, its healthiness depends on the ingredients used, such as the type of milk and the amount of sweetener.

How did Dirty Chai originate?

Dirty Chai is a modern creation that emerged from the fusion of Eastern and Western beverage traditions, appealing to those who appreciate both tea and coffee.

Is Dirty Chai popular worldwide?

Dirty Chai has gained popularity in many parts of the world, especially in specialty coffee shops and among those who enjoy fusion beverages.

Is there a decaffeinated version of Dirty Chai?

A decaffeinated Dirty Chai can be made using decaf espresso and decaf chai, though this is less common.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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