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13 Starbucks Chai Tea Latte Ordering Tips from a Barista

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Is a chai tea latte your go-to Starbucks drink? Here's a helpful list of ordering tips from a barista. See everything there is to know about Starbucks chai.
Barista tips for ordering the best Starbucks chai tea lattes.

Starbucks Chai

Starbucks chai tea lattes are a favorite among tea drinkers and non-tea drinkers. However, the official Starbucks menu only lists four chai drinks and just two of them are lattes.

Standard chai lattes at Starbucks combine chai black tea concentrate, water and 2% reduced-fat milk.

Of course, iced chai lattes also have ice and the hot version is made with steamed milk.

The chai concentrate itself is sweetened black tea that’s infused with tasty warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger. As you can imagine, chai is perfect for pairing with other flavor and topping options at Starbucks.

However, when it comes to customizing a standard chai latte, you need to know what you’re getting into. Sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much.

You certainly don’t want your drink turning into a sugar bomb that masks all the delicious nuanced flavors of fall.

Starbucks iced chai tea latte.
A standard iced chai tea latte at Starbucks has chai tea concentrate, water, 2% milk and ice.

Tips for Ordering Chai Tea Lattes at Starbucks

With insider tips from a barista, I put together this list of everything you need to know about Starbucks chai drinks.

Here are 13 tips for ordering a non-standard chai tea latte at Starbucks that tastes delicious.

1. Ordering “no water” doesn’t mean more chai.

A standard chai tea latte at Starbucks is made by pumping concentrated chai syrup into a cup. Then water is added to bring it to regular strength. Finally, milk is poured in, as well as ice for cold lattes.

A common way to modify a Starbucks chai is to order it with no water.

But, perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions is, that if you order a chai tea latte with no water, you’ll get more chai syrup in its place.

When in fact, protocol is for the barista to fill the cup up with more milk, not chai tea.

Bottom line, if you get a chai with no water, the ratio of chai tea to milk is not the same as the standard Starbucks recipe.

2. A chai latte ordered with “light ice” gets more milk.

Just like ordering a chai tea latte with no water, asking for light ice or no ice doesnt mean the cup is filled up with a drink that has the same proportions of chai tea and milk as one made with ice.

Instead, light ice or no ice gets you more milk.

The rule of thumb is, the extra space in the cup for a chai latte is always filled with milk, unless you ask otherwise.

3. Want a fuller body latte, here’s what to do.

For a richer, fuller-bodied iced chai tea latte, order it with light ice and add an extra pump of chai black tea.

For a more robust hot chai tea latte, simply add an extra pump of chai.

In other words, to get a richer chai latte, add-in extra chai and do not modify the amount of water.

4. Want more caffeine? You’ve got options.

Starbucks chai is the most caffeinated tea at Starbucks.

But if you want even more caffeine in a chai tea latte, here are few ways you can do so.

  • Add-in extra chai: For a more caffeinated drink, customize the latte with extra pumps of chai. Each pump of Starbucks chai has about 24 milligrams of caffeine. And the good news is, getting additional pumps of chai in a chai drink doesn’t cost more.
  • Customize it with matcha powder: Whether you add matcha into the latte or get an iced chai latte with matcha cold foam, each scoop of Starbucks matcha powder tacks on an additional 27 milligrams of caffeine.
  • Order a dirty chai tea latte: A Starbucks dirty chai is simply a chai with a shot of espresso poured on top. A single shot of dark roast has about 75 milligrams of caffeine and blonde roast has 85 milligrams.

5. Order a skinny chai (sort of).

In general, skinny Starbucks drinks are made with sugar-free syrups when they exist, non-fat milk and no whipped cream.

Since Starbucks does not have sugar-free chai concentrate, a skinny chai at Starbucks simply substitutes 2% milk with non-fat milk. The drink does not come with whipped cream.

However, there are lots of milk options at Starbucks, including plant-based milk alternatives. So if you’re trying to order a chai tea latte with the fewest calories possible, the best option is to get it with almond milk.

For a zero-calorie chai at Starbucks, order a hot chai tea brewed with a Teavana organic chai tea bag.

6. Get a non-dairy Starbucks chai tea latte.

Starbucks iced chai tea latte made with almond milk.
To order the lowest calorie Starbucks iced chai tea latte, get it with almond milk instead of the standard 2% milk.

Ordering a non-dairy chai tea latte at Starbucks is as simple as swapping the standard dairy milk for a plant-based alternative.

Starbucks currently has four non-dairy milks to choose from: almond milk, oat milk, soy and coconut.

My favorite non-dairy combination is a chai almondmilk latte.

7. Combine chai and matcha.

Starbuck matcha is a sweetened green tea powder. It’s the basis of matcha tea lattes and the matcha creme frappuccino.

The flavor is best described as sweet and grassy. It’s not for everyone, but if you love matcha and chai, Starbucks makes it a snap to combine the two when customizing a tea latte.

8. Add-in a complementary syrup or sauce.

Starbucks chai tea concentrate is an infusion of black tea, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and other flavors.

If you want to customize a chai tea latte with an additional flavor here are the syrups and sauces I suggest:

Just don’t go overboard on the number of pumps you add in. The latte could become overly sweet.

9. Top it with a creamy cold foam.

A Starbucks iced chai tea latte ordered with a topping of vanilla sweet cream cold foam.
Vanilla sweet cream cold foam at Starbucks isn’t just for coffee. Try it on an iced chai tea latte.

Vanilla sweet cream cold foam is a topping option that Starbucks offers on cold brew coffee beverages.

But there’s nothing to stop you from adding a creamy layer of cold foam on top of an iced chai tea latte. In fact, an iced chai with vanilla cold foam is absolutely delicious.

Some people even love customizing chai with a layer of matcha cold foam.

But my all-time favorite combination is an iced chai tea latte with pumpkin cold foam. It’s like sipping on autumn.

Here are even more non-coffee pumpkin drinks at Starbucks.

10. Make it decadent with a drizzle.

Starbucks iced chai latte with vanilla sweet cream cold foam and apple spice drizzle.
Starbucks drizzles like caramel and apple spice are delicious on iced chai lattes.

Decadence at Starbucks isn’t just for coffee drinks.

Have you ever seen a caramel macchiato with gooey sauce dripping down the cup and had a little drink envy?

No worries; you can add a drizzle of buttery caramel sauce to a chai tea latte, as well. It’s available two ways: on top of the drink or lining the cup.

And when seasonal apple spice drizzle is available on the fall menu, I highly recommend getting some on an iced chai with vanilla sweet cream cold foam.

11. Size matters.

As the cup sizes go up for chai lattes, the amount of chai and caffeine also progressively increases.

While you might be thinking, “of course it does,” this isn’t necessarily the case for espresso drinks. For example, short and tall espresso lattes both have one shot of espresso in them.

Specifically, here’s the number of pumps of chai concentrate for each size drink. Remember, each pump contains approximately 24 milligrams of caffeine.

  • Short (hot): 2 pumps
  • Tall (hot): 3 pumps
  • Grande (hot and iced): 4 pumps
  • Venti (hot): 5 pumps
  • Venti (iced): 6 pumps

Curious why a venti iced chai latte has more pumps of chai in it than the hot version?

It’s simple. A venti cold cup is 4 ounces larger than a venti hot cup.

12. Is your chai latte too hot? Here’s how to change the temperature.

A hot Starbucks chai tea latte has hot water added to it that’s just under boil—around 200˚F.

While the barista cannot change the water temperature, the temperature of the steamed milk can be adjusted.

For instance, the standard temp that milk is steamed at Starbucks is about 160˚F. Ordering an extra hot chai latte increases the temperature of the steamed milk to around 170˚F.

If you want a cooler chai latte, you can even ask for the milk to be steamed to kids temp which is about 130˚F.

13. Try a Chai Frappuccino

If a chai tea latte is your drink of choice at Starbucks, don’t miss out on the chai frappuccino.

My barista-insider tells me this is one of the most overlooked blended beverages at Starbucks that’s really good.

Just like a regular chai latte, the chai frappuccino combines chai syrup and milk.

However, it’s even creamier with whole milk blended in and whipped cream on top. A dusting of cinnamon powder finishes it off.

Want to make it at home? Try out my easy chai frappuccino recipe.

Questions You May Have

Does Starbucks have sugar-free chai?

Starbucks chai tea concentrate contains sugar and honey. They do not offer a sugar-free version.

Is a chai tea latte at Starbucks dairy-free?

The standard chai tea latte at Starbucks is made with 2% reduced-fat milk. However, it’s possible to order a dairy-free latte by substituting the dairy milk with either almond milk, oat milk, soy milk or coconut milk.

Can Starbucks put a cold foam topping on an iced chai tea latte?

Starbucks vanilla sweet cream cold foam is a topping meant for cold brew coffee beverages but it can be added to iced chai tea lattes, too. Flavored toppings like matcha cold foam and pumpkin cream cold foam are also delicious on an iced chai.


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