Starbucks Iced Chai Tea Latte
If iced chai latte is your Starbucks drink of choice, you may be disappointed when you try to whip it up at home and it doesn’t taste like the one your barista makes.
Something is off, but you’re not sure what.
Afterall, you used a chai concentrate, milk and ice just like Starbucks.
If you ever wondered how to make iced chai latte taste like your beloved Starbucks drink, I’ll give you a few insider tips.
Basics of Chai Latte Drinks
Before I show you exactly how Starbucks makes an iced chai latte (courtesy of my Starbucks barista daughter) and how you can make a similar version of it at home, let’s discuss the basics of chai.
Is chai latte, coffee or tea?
Chai is tea. In fact the word chai literally means tea in many parts of the world. In China, where tea originated, the word for tea is pronounced like cha.
So when you order a chai tea latte, you are in fact saying tea tea latte. And that doesn’t make much sense.
The real name of this drink, with its roots in India, is actually masala chai, which means mixed spiced tea. However, most menus in American coffee shops call it chai latte.
Be sure and take a look at my homemade masala chai recipe if you want to make this authentic hot chai latte at home.
What ingredients are in masala chai?
Classic masala chai is made using a black tea like Assam. It is infused with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom pods, cloves, peppercorn and star anise.
Often masala chai is made into a latte by adding a lot of milk and sweetener. The result is a very satisfying spicy, yet sweet tea drink.
Not surprisingly, Starbucks chai tea lattes are based on a similar flavor profile.
Does a chai latte have caffeine?
Yes, chai lattes have caffeine since they are made using black tea.
However, you can adapt the recipe if you are trying to avoid caffeine. For example, you can substitute the black tea for rooibos.
Unfortunately, Starbucks does not have a decaffeinated chai latte on their menu.
If you’re interested, here’s a look at the amount of caffeine in each Starbucks tea.
Is a chai latte healthy?
There are health benefits associated with the spices used in a chai latte recipe, as well as the black tea.
However, pre-packaged chai concentrates, used in coffee houses and sold in stores, usually have a lot of sugar added.
Controlling the sugar content is one reason I like to make my own homemade chai concentrate.
How many calories are in a masala chai latte?
The majority of calories in a masala chai latte come from the milk and sweetener. The spices, black tea and water virtually have no calories.
Therefore, calorie content in this tea latte varies a lot depending on the amount and type of milk and sweetener added.
But to give you a ballpark idea of how many calories are in a masala chai latte, a grande Starbucks chai latte made with chai concentrate and 2% milk is 240 calories.
Now that you know the basics of masala chai, let me show you exactly how Starbucks makes an iced chai latte.
Starbucks Iced Chai Latte Recipe
Have you ever tried making a copycat Starbucks iced chai recipe? Did its flavor measure up to a barista-made drink?
To help you figure out how to make your at-home recipe be more like Starbucks, let me show you exactly how they make it at Starbucks.
And by exact, I mean the exact ingredients and exact proportions. My daughter is a barista at Starbucks, so this is the real deal.
Starbucks syrup and concentrate are measured by the number of pumps that’s squirted into each cup.
Although, the barista may also use the black lines on the cup for measuring, as well. If you’ve never noticed those lines, now you will.
Since we don’t have pumps and lines on our cups at home, I got an empty Starbucks cup and figured out the exact quantities needed.
Here’s how Starbucks makes a grande iced chai latte
There are only three ingredients in a Starbucks iced chai latte:
- Highly concentrated chai concentrate
- 2% milk
- Ice (made with triple filtered water)
Directions for a grande iced chai latte
- Add 4 pumps of chai concentrate directly into the cup (⅓ cup)
- Add milk up to the third black line cup marking (1 cup)
- Fill the cup with ice and give it a swirl to mix
Now, take a careful look at the photo below.
Notice that the four pumps of concentrate comes up to the first clear line (bump) on the cup.
I did a little experiment to see how much liquid it takes to get to that line and it’s ⅓ cup.
Next, Starbucks baristas add milk up to the third black line on the cold cup. To get from the clear line to the third black line takes an additional 1 cup of liquid.
Finally, fill the remaining space with ice. A quick swirl of the cup mixes the ingredients together nicely.
Two Reasons Your At-home Iced Chai Doesn’t Taste Like Starbucks
Did you look carefully at the Starbucks chai latte ingredients above?
Two things should jump out at you.
First, the Starbucks concentrate is highly concentrated.
Second, the ice is made from triple-filtered water. As a matter of fact, Starbucks uses triple filtered water for all its drinks.
Starbucks chai concentrate is not the same as chai concentrates sold in stores.
Since Starbucks uses a highly concentrated chai, it has more flavor per ounce than the less-concentrated versions sold in stores.
For instance, look at the photo below. I did a side-by-side comparison of Tazo chai latte black tea concentrate to Starbucks. The differences are obvious.
- The Starbucks concentrate is darker than Tazo.
- It also has a stronger aroma than Tazo.
- And the Starbucks sample has way more flavor.
Unless you make your own very strong concentrate, do not use the same proportions of concentrate to milk as the Starbucks recipe. The latte will come out too weak.
In case you’re wondering, a grande iced chai latte is 25% concentrate and 75% milk, plus ice.
Clearly you need to use more Tazo concentrate (since it’s not as concentrated), otherwise the milk drowns out the spicy goodness. In a nutshell, this is why it’s difficult to replicate a Starbucks iced chai latte at home using store ingredients. Think about it; as you add more concentrate, the proportions of milk and chai change.
The Tazo box, says to use half concentrate and half milk to make a latte. Don’t get me wrong, this will still make a very tasty drink, but it’s half water (tea) and half milk. The Tazo version just isn’t as full and creamy as Starbucks.
Starbucks uses filtered-water ice
Any serious tea drinker knows the importance of using filtered water. After all, tea is mostly water.
Therefore, no matter what kind of tea you’re brewing up, it’s always best to use filtered water. And this goes for ice, too.
Since ice is a significant portion of an iced latte, it impacts the flavor, especially as it melts. At home you can make ice cubes with filtered water.
If your water isn’t already filtered, you can filter it like I do with a Brita filter like these on Amazon.
Does Starbucks have a skinny iced chai latte?
Now that you see how Starbucks makes an iced chai latte, you may be wondering if your barista can make it skinny.
A skinny Starbucks drink is made with:
- Non-fat milk
- Sugar-free syrups
- No whipped cream
Unfortunately, Starbucks no longer has a low or no sugar version of their chai concentrate. Although, store brands like Tazo have reduced sugar versions.
So if you order a skinny iced chai latte, the best a barista can do is use non-fat milk. Just beware, the concentrate still has plenty of sugar in it.
Since this drink does not have whipped cream, that’s not an issue.
Homemade Chai Concentrate
So far we’ve been discussing how to make iced chai lattes using pre-made concentrates. However, you can make your own concentrate at home.
The pros of making your own homemade chai concentrate:
- You can experiment and get the flavor you like
- You can control the amount of sugar or sweetener added
- It’s cheaper than buying it at Starbucks or other coffee shops
To make your own chai concentrate, infuse water with black tea and freshly ground chai spices (ginger, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn and star anise).
Alternatively, you can make a concentrate with a masala chai loose leaf tea blend or chai tea bags.
Use half the amount of water than you normally would for a cup of tea to drink. After simmering the infusion for a few minutes, pour the tea through a strainer.
If you like to drink chai lattes regularly, you can save a lot of money by making a homemade chai tea concentrate.
The bottles of spices may seem costly at first, but per cup your chai latte will be way cheaper than getting it at a coffee shop.
How much is an iced chai latte at Starbucks?
To help you compare the cost of making a chai latte at home to Starbucks, here are their approximate prices.
These are the prices around Chicago, but keep in mind they vary by location. In case you’re wondering, hot and iced chai lattes cost the same.
Approximate cost of a chai latte at Starbucks (USD)
If you’re a tea drinker like me, you might be surprised at the number of other tea drinks Starbucks sells. Take a look at this post about iced tea at Starbucks and this one about hot tea at Starbucks.
And here’s a list of the Best Starbucks Tea Drinks that customers order the most.
- 1/3 cup chai concentrate (3:1 concentrate)
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1 cup triple filtered ice
- Add chai concentrate to bottom of 16-ounce cup or shaker. (Barista will use 4 pumps or fill cup up to first clear line.)
- Pour milk over chai. (Barista will add milk up to third black line.)
- Fill cup with ice and swirl ice to mix drink or use spoon. For shaker method, shake iced chai latte and pour over ice.
This recipe is using ingredients from Starbucks. The chai concentrate sold in stores is weaker so proportions need to be adjusted. For example, use one part chai to one part milk.