Chai latte is a classic favorite – the complex warm combination of spices infused in the tea and topped with hot milk is the perfect drink to start your morning and a great alternative to morning coffee. It’s a popular non-espresso option you can find at most coffee shops, and one of Starbucks’s most popular drinks.
While this tea latte is undeniably delicious, is the chai tea latte healthy?
Chai latte can be a very unhealthy drink given that a serving of the drink consists of a whopping 240 calories with 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 45 grams of carbs. It's not the best choice of beverage if your goal is weight loss.
However, you can still enjoy this drink with just a few modifications - the key to making this drink help rather than hinder progress towards your fitness goals is to substitute and portion the high-calorie ingredients.
💭 Original Starbucks Order – Is It Healthy?
To understand the calorie and nutrition content of the chai latte, let's look at the ingredient breakdown of a typical Starbucks chai tea latte. The drink is made of three main components: the chai tea, the chai spice blend, and the milk.
Chai Tea – Chai tea is the main component of this dish and has virtually no calories as it consists of tea leaves steeped in hot water.
Chai Spice Syrup – The chai syrup is what gives the chai latte it’s signature flavor. According to Starbucks, a typical Grande chai latte consists of 4 pumps of chai syrup. Their syrup consists of the typical chai spices along with a sizeable amount of sugar. A pump is about 30 calories each and a grande consists of 4 pumps, adding a total of 120 calories to the drink!
Milk – In the Starbucks original recipe, 2% milk is the default. While 2% milk isn’t too bad in terms of calories, for purposes of lowering calorie consumption, it's best to opt for lower fat cow's milk, such as skim milk, or plant-based milk such as almond milk.
For more information about the calorie content for different milks, check out this article on the healthiest types of milk.
Looking at each component, it’s easy to see that the beloved chai latte can easily be made to be a high calorie and high-fat drink if certain ingredients are not portioned or substituted correctly, making it less than ideal for dieting purposes.
Thankfully, it’s not hard to make or order a chai latte with fewer calories — let's look at how we can make a few tweaks that will make this tea latte easy to fit into your everyday diet.
Fore more low calorie coffee drinks, check out the following:
🍏 How To Order or Make A Healthy Version
The biggest two areas of opportunity to make a healthy chai tea latte is through the chai spice mix and the milk.
Most coffee shops, like Starbucks or other commercial cafes, will likely use some sort of syrup or Chai powder mixes. Unfortunately with chai powder mixtures, there is typically a lot of sugar, which increases the calorie content significantly.
While I would not recommend removing sugar outright as it is necessary to achieve the similar great taste, there is definitely a middle ground of sugar content.
You have 2 options here: Order with modifications, typically asking for a lower calorie milk and less syrup or concentrate, or make your own chai concentrate at home.
Ordering A Healthier Version
Milk – Opt for skim or almond milk for lower calorie alternative
Chai Concentrate – If you’re at Starbucks, you can ask for 1-2 pumps. At other cafes that use concentrate, you can just ask for less sweet.
This is a great option for if you’re out and about or on the go. However, asking for less sweetener also tends to result in a more diluted chai since the pre-made mix is already set.
If you don’t mind making your own chai concentrate, I’d recommend making it at home. It also saves you a fair amount of money!
Making it At Home
Chai Concentrate – Make your own with toasted chai spices, vanilla extract, and sugar for a lower calorie version. More detailed instructions below.
Milk – Opt for skim or almond milk for lower calorie alternative
🍎 Calories and Nutrition
According to the Starbucks menu, a typical Grande-sized Chai Latte comes at a whopping 240 calories with 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and 45 grams of carbs.
This is a huge amount of calories for a drink!
Most of the calories come from the sugar in the chai concentrate, contributing to the high carb content.
Using the ingredient swaps and omissions mentioned below, you can make a much lower calorie chai latte with the following calorie breakdown:
The skinny chai latte only has 100 calories with 3 grams of fat and 14 grams of carbs. This is a much more manageable amount of calories.
✅ Chai Tea Benefits
Chai tea also has numerous health benefits. Here are some of the key ones.
Reduces risk of heart disease – Given that chai is based off black tea, which is based off flavinoids which is known to helps clean arteries, chai tea is known to have benefits to heart health.
Packed with antioxidants – Black tea leaves, cardamon, and cloves are known to have high amounts of antioxidants. This helps cleanses the body from unhealthy substances and free radicals.
Anti-inflammatory properties – Many of the chai spices, including cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, are known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Read more about the health benefits of chai tea.
📋 Ingredient Notes
To make your own chai latte at home, you’ll need the following main ingredients.
Chai Latte Concentrate
Sugar or Stevia – I only use 1 teaspoon of sugar here, which is only 15 calories. If you would prefer not to use sugar, feel free to swap out for stevia.
Chai Spices – Cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorns, cardamon, nutmeg, all spice, fresh ginger, and cloves. Whole spices are best but ground will work as well in a pinch. Just be sure to be able to strain them out, or you will get a grainy latte.
Vanilla extract – Gives the latte the additional vanilla flavor
Water – This is needed to help simmer the spices
Low-Fat Milk – I used almond milk. You can also use macadamia milk or low fat milk. Oat milk is another popular plant based milk, but is higher in calories. It doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but just something to be mindful of when you’re tracking calories.
Low fat milks may have a harder time frothing, but I've personally found the Califa brand Almond milk to steam beautifully.
Chai Tea Bag – Chai latte is typically made with chai tea or black tea. Your typical tea bags will work.
🔪 Step-By-Step Instructions
Toast the spices – Start by using a mortar and pestle to slightly grind the spices open. Toast them over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant.
Make the chai concentrate – Add about 2 cups of water and bring the water to a simmer. Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes and turn off the heat.
Steep the tea bag – Add the teabag into to the mixture while its hot and let it steep for about 3-5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract and sugar at the end. Pour the chai concentrate about 3 quarters full in your cup and store the remaining concentrate for later use.
Froth the milk – In a milk frothing cup, use a milk frother to steam the milk.
Assemble the latte – Top the chai concentrate with the hot milk and foam. You can also garnish the milk foam with a touch of cinnamon or other ground spices that you may have used.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Make a dirty chai latte – To make a dirty chai latte and give this drink an extra kick, add an espresso shot.
Spicy chai latte – Add a whiff of cayenne pepper for a good kick. If you like spice you'll love this I promise!
Make a london fog latte – Swap out the chai tea and make a london fog latte with an earl grey tea bag.
With other milk – Skim milk, macadamia milk, and soy milk are other great low calorie options.
Alternative sweeteners – You can also use stevia or monk fruit sweetener to sweeten the latte to your liking. Other popular sweeteners include maple syrup and honey.
I would recommend consuming the chai latte as soon as it's been made. You can store the chai blend for up to 5 days in the fridge with an airtight container.
Is Chai Latte Healthy? (Healthy Chai Latte Recipe)
- Milk Frother
- 1-2 Sticks Cinnamon
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 Ginger Root
- 1 Nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon Cloves
- 1 teaspoon Allspice
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 1 cup Water
- 1 cup Almond Milk
- 1 Chai Tea Bag
- Toast the spices – Start by using a mortar and pestle to slightly grind the spices open. Toast them over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant.
- Make the chai concentrate – Add about 2 cups of water and bring the water to a simmer. Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes and turn off the heat.
- Steep the tea bag – Add the teabag into to the mixture while its hot and let it steep for about 3-5 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract and sugar at the end. Pour the chai concentrate about 3 quarters full in your cup and store the remaining concentrate for later use.
- Froth the milk – In a milk frothing cup, use a milk frother to steam the milk.
- Assemble the latte – Top the chai concentrate with the hot milk and foam. You can also garnish the milk foam with a touch of cinnamon or other ground spices that you may have used.