Is chai latte low in calories?

Quick Answer

Chai latte can be low in calories or high in calories depending on how it is prepared. A 12 oz chai latte made with skim milk contains about 120 calories. However, chai lattes made with whole milk, cream, syrups, and toppings can contain over 300 calories for a large 16 oz size. To keep chai latte low in calories opt for unsweetened varieties made with nonfat or low fat milk.

What is Chai Latte?

Chai latte, also known as masala chai latte, is a warm and cozy beverage made by brewing chai tea concentrate with steamed milk and other flavorings. It originated in India but has become popular worldwide.

The main ingredients in chai latte are:

– Black tea – The tea leaves are brewed to create a concentrated chai tea blend. Common varieties used include Assam black tea and Darjeeling black tea.

– Spices – Cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, clove, black peppercorns. The spices are boiled together with the black tea.

– Milk – Usually steamed milk is added to the concentrated chai tea to make it creamy. Any type of milk can be used including non-dairy milks.

– Sweetener – Sugar, honey or syrup are commonly added to sweeten chai latte. The sweetener contributes significantly to the calorie content.

– Toppings – Some cafes add toppings like whipped cream, foam, or sprinkle cinnamon or chocolate shavings on top.

So in essence, chai latte is a mix of spiced black tea and warm foamy milk. The ingredients can significantly influence the calorie content as discussed next.

Calories in Chai Latte

Chai latte can range from 100 calories for a small cup made with nonfat milk and no sweetener, up to over 300 calories for a large cup made with whole milk, cream, syrups and toppings.

Here is the calorie breakdown for a typical medium 12 oz chai latte from Starbucks:

– Nonfat milk: 120 calories
– 2% reduced fat milk: 150 calories
– Whole milk: 190 calories
– Nonfat milk + syrup: 160 calories
– Nonfat milk + whipped cream: 230 calories

As you can see, the type of milk and any added syrups or toppings significantly increases the calories.

Some factors that influence the calorie content:

– Type of milk – Nonfat milk has around 35 calories per 100ml, while whole milk has around 60 calories per 100ml. So using whole milk instead of nonfat milk can double the calories.

– Milk alternatives like rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk generally contain 50-80 calories per 100ml. So using milk alternatives may add slightly more calories than nonfat dairy milk.

– Sweeteners – Adding just 1 tablespoon of syrup like vanilla, caramel or chocolate can add 50-60 calories. Sugary sweeteners like honey or table sugar also add calories.

– Portion size – A small 12 oz chai made with nonfat milk has around 100 calories. But a large 20 oz cup can have over 300 calories. Doubling the portion size doubles the calories.

– Toppings – Whipped cream, foam and spices sprinkled on top provide negligible calories. But toppings like chocolate chips can add 50 or more calories.

So in summary, the more full fat milk, syrups, toppings and the larger the portion size, the more calories in chai latte.

How to Make Low Calorie Chai Latte

Here are some tips to keep chai latte low in calories:

– Use nonfat or lowfat milk – Choosing nonfat or 1% milk over whole or heavy cream makes a big difference in calories. Non-dairy milks like unsweetened almond or oat milk are also low calorie options.

– Skip the syrups – Flavored syrups and sweetened creamers can add unnecessary calories. Opt for unsweetened chai concentrate instead.

– Use minimal sweetener – Add just a teaspoon of honey or sugar if needed for a lightly sweetened chai. Completely skipping sweeteners is ideal.

– Choose small size – Opt for the smallest cup size available, usually 12 oz. Some coffee shops offer 8 oz or 10 oz options that are even fewer calories.

– Minimal toppings – Light foam or a small sprinkle of cinnamon on top adds negligible calories. But heavy poured cream toppings add calories fast.

– Make it at home – When you brew chai latte yourself, you control exactly what goes in it. Substitute water for some of the milk to cut calories.

Low Calorie Chai Latte Recipes

Here are some recipes for lower calorie chai lattes you can make at home:

Skinny Chai Latte

– 1 cup water
– 1 chai tea bag or 1 tsp loose leaf chai tea
– 1 cup nonfat milk
– 1 tsp honey (optional)

1. Heat water to a boil. Add the loose leaf tea or tea bag and let steep 5 minutes.
2. Remove tea bags or strain tea leaves. Stir in nonfat milk and warm over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
3. Mix in honey if using.
4. Pour chai concentrate into a cup. Top with foamed nonfat milk if desired.

Nutrition per 8 oz: 60 calories, 0 g fat, 13 g carbs, 4 g protein

Light Chai Latte

– 3⁄4 cup nonfat milk
– 1⁄4 cup water
– 1 chai tea bag or 1 tsp loose leaf chai
– 1 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder
– Pinch of cinnamon

1. Heat water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea bag or loose tea. Cover and steep 5 minutes.
2. Remove tea bag or strain tea. Stir in nonfat milk, nonfat dry milk powder and cinnamon.
3. Return to stove and gently heat until hot but not boiling.
4. Froth using a milk frother or blender.
5. Pour into cup and enjoy.

Nutrition per 8 oz: 45 calories, 0 g fat, 7 g carbs, 4 g protein

Low Carb Chai Latte

– 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
– 1 chai tea bag or 1 tsp loose leaf chai
– 1 tsp sugar free caramel syrup
– 1 tbsp heavy whipping cream

1. Heat almond or coconut milk over medium heat until steaming.
2. Remove from heat. Add tea bag or loose tea. Cover and steep 5 minutes.
3. Discard tea bags or strain tea. Whisk in sugar free caramel syrup.
4. Pour concentrate into cup. Top with frothed heavy cream.

Nutrition per 8 oz: 45 calories, 3.5 g fat, 2 g carbs, 1 g protein

Calories in Chai Latte at Popular Shops

Here are the typical calories at popular coffee shops for a 12 oz chai latte made with nonfat milk and no customizations:

Coffee Shop Calories
Starbucks 120
Dunkin Donuts 140
Tim Hortons 130
Caribou Coffee 140
Peet’s Coffee 110
The Coffee Bean 100

As you can see most chai lattes at coffee shops contain 100-140 calories for a medium sized 12 oz cup made with nonfat milk.

The calories increase if you customize the chai latte with whole milk, cream, syrups or toppings. For example, a 16 oz Starbucks chai latte can contain:

– Nonfat milk: 130 calories
– Nonfat milk + whipped cream: 190 calories
– Nonfat milk + vanilla syrup: 180 calories
– Whole milk: 210 calories
– Whole milk + vanilla syrup + whipped cream: 340 calories

So customizations can really shoot up the calories. Stick to the standard preparation with nonfat milk to keep calories down.

Is Chai Latte Healthy?

In moderation, chai latte can be a relatively healthy beverage choice. Some notable health benefits include:

Rich in antioxidants – Black tea provides polyphenols and flavonoids with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This helps reduce cell damage in the body.

Spice benefits – Ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and black pepper have been shown to reduce inflammation, improve digestion and cardiovascular health.

Low acidity – Brewed more gently than coffee, chai is less acidic and less likely to cause digestive issues.

Probiotics – Some cafes use kefir which provides probiotics that support gut and immunity.

Hydration – The milk and water content helps keep you hydrated.

Downsides if consumed in excess:
Caffeine – The typical 8 oz cup contains 25mg caffeine. Excess caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.

Sugar – Added syrups and sweeteners spike blood sugar. Skip these to keep chai latte low glycemic.

Calories – Calories add up fast if drinking large sizes, full fat milk and added syrups or toppings.

So in moderation, a 12 oz chai latte made with nonfat milk and minimal sweeteners can be a relatively healthy beverage choice. It provides antioxidants, spices, hydration and nutrients from the milk. Just be mindful of calories, caffeine and sugar if drinking more than one per day.


Chai latte can range widely in calorie content based on preparation method. But made properly, it can be a delicious and relatively healthy lower calorie beverage.

To keep chai latte low in calories opt for the smallest size, nonfat or low fat milk, minimal added sweeteners, and easy on the toppings. Enjoy it as an occasional treat in sensible portions and customize it to your calorie goals.

An 8-12 oz chai latte made properly typically provides 100 or less calories. This makes it a nice light and soothing break in your day when you want a cup of comfort without excess calories.

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