What is the Starbucks Vanilla Chai? Does It Even Exist?

When I’m not kicking back with a tall glass of cold brew or a smooth creamy latte, my next choice of caffeinated beverage has to be tea. Coffee is wonderful stuff but sometimes you’re just in the mood for some matcha green tea or a delicate cup of English breakfast blend.

On a cold winter’s morning, there’s nothing more warming and satisfying than a mug of chai tea. The smooth, slightly sweet flavor and warming spices seem to thaw you out from deep inside. It just ticks every box from festive to cozy hygge vibes.

As much as I love a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte for all the same reasons, chai tea is an option you can enjoy all year round!

If you love a Starbucks chai tea latte but also have a sweet tooth then you’ll almost certainly be a fan of a vanilla chai latte.

The vanilla chai latte is not on the menu at Starbucks but it’s really easy to order. Just ask for the standard chai tea latte with an addition of vanilla syrup.

If you want to know more about this drink, where it comes from, and how you can make it at home there we have all the answers here for you!

a chai latte from above saying i love chai

Where Does Chai Come From?

Chai tea is a drink that dates way back and originates from many countries. Chai is the Hindi word for tea although many languages refer to tea as “chai” or a similar variation of this word. Chai, as we know it in the west, is a combination of black tea with warming herbs and spices such as cardamom, black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.

This drink can be brewed using chai tea bags, chai tea concentrate, or just a combination of black tea and chai spices. A standard hot chai drink can be brewed in hot water and enjoyed as is or can be topped up with steamed milk to make a Chai tea latte.

Starbucks is best known for their coffee drinks but it’s not just espresso they do well. They have a wide range of chai drinks to suit every taste.

Chai Tea Concentrate

When your order a chai tea drink at Starbucks the barista will typically reach for the chai tea latte concentrate. This is used in combination with milk to make chai tea lattes and similar variations. The exception to this rule is a simple cup of black chai tea where tea bags are used instead.

The ingredients used to create this tasty treat are; water, black tea, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cane sugar, honey, ginger juice, vanilla extract, and citric acid.

Per 3/4 cup of concentrate, there are 110 calories all of which come from carbohydrates. Its total fat is 0% so there’s no trans fats or cholesterol included. The total carbohydrates are 26g with 24g of this coming from sugars. Basically, it’s a carb-heavy ingredient that’s best enjoyed in moderation.

Chai tea concentrate contains cane sugar and honey so isn’t suitable for a vegan or keto diet.

Starbucks Chai Drinks

a couple of chai lattes from above

There is a range of Starbucks drinks that are based on the simple Chai tea recipe. Alongside these options, there are variations you can choose to customize your order so we will delve into some of these options as well.

Starbucks Chai Tea Latte

The most common chai option at this famous coffee shop has to be the chai tea latte. This is made with a combination of hot steamed milk and chai tea concentrate. It’s smooth, sweet, and spicy and the perfect treat on a cold winter’s morning.

Chai Creme Frappuccino

If you’re more of a fan of the decedent frappuccino then this is the perfect drink for you. This drink blends chai concentrate with milk and ice and it’s finished off with sweetened whipped cream. A sprinkle of cinnamon rounds it off to give a lovely cooling treat.

Starbucks Iced Chai Tea Latte

Similar to an iced coffee, this drink is essentially the chai tea latte but served cold over ice. It has all those delicious flavor notes but is wonderfully refreshing when the weather turns warm outside.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte

If you’re a tea lover then there’s no need to miss out on the PSL craze each year. As Summer is winding down into Fall, the pumpkin spice recipes start to appear. This seasonal recipe combines the chai tea latte with some pumpkin spice magic to warm you up on those chilly mornings.

Starbucks Vanilla Chai Tea Latte

Starbucks already does a blonde vanilla latte that combines its standard latte with vanilla syrup. It may come as no surprise that this flavor combo also works really well with chai tea in place of coffee.

Chai tea concentrate already contains vanilla extract, sugar, and honey so when you add extra sweetener in the form of vanilla syrup you may find the drink overwhelmingly sweet. If you’re watching those calories then you can always opt for sugar-free vanilla syrup instead.

If vanilla isn’t your cup of tea then you can always try with a different flavored syrup such as cinnamon dolce to sweeten your latte.

Other Chai Variations

Dirty Chai

Can’t decide between a tea or a coffee-based latte? If you choose a dirty chai then you don’t have to. This recipe takes the chai tea latte and adds a shot of espresso to really give it a boost. Be wary of this one if you’re caffeine-sensitive as the combination of tea and coffee means this drink is very high in caffeine.

You can order this drink as a single or double-shot dirty chai.

Dairy-Free Chai Tea Latte

You can always swap out the milk for a non-dairy option if you’re lactose intolerant. Soy, oat, coconut, and almond milk all work really well in this recipe. Select Starbucks locations also have Starbucks ’ original nut blend which combines rice milk with cashews, hazelnuts, and added vitamins.

Although this works well for lactose intolerance or people with milk allergies it doesn’t make the drink vegan. To create a vegan latte you need to swap out the chai tea concentrate for Teavana chai teabags brewed in a small volume of hot water and topped up with steamed milk of your choice. This variation works well if you add vanilla syrup or cinnamon dolce syrup to the milk as the tea itself doesn’t have any added sugar.

Vanilla Chai Tea Latte Recipe (Starbucks Copycat Recipe)


Makes: 2x 8Oz Cups

  • Two Chai Teabags (or your choice of tea plus chai spice mix)
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Milk (whichever you enjoy best)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Honey or Maple Syrup
  • Teaspoon Vanilla Extract (you can use a vanilla pod instead). Optionally you can use 2 tablespoons of Starbucks Vanilla Syrup in place of the honey and vanilla extract
  • Pinch of Cinnamon or Chai Spice Mix for Garnish

Pro Tip – If using non-dairy milk then opt for a barista blend as these tolerate heat better and hold their foam.

Chai Spice Mix

Chai Spices In A Lever Jar

If you’re making your own spice blend you will also need some black tea. You can use any Black Tea you enjoy best. This can be a single teabag or loose leaf tea (Assam or English Breakfast works well).

In a small bowl combine 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom, 1 teaspoon of ground all-spice, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground cloves, and 3 teaspoons of ground ginger.

Combine all spices and mix well. Add 1 teaspoon to each batch of chai tea and store the rest in an air-tight container for future use.


  • Add the water to a pan and warm to boiling.
  • Add your tea bags or tea and chai spices if using
  • Let it steep for 7-10 minutes
  • Remove the tea bags or strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve if using loose leaf tea
  • Add your milk plus honey and vanilla or vanilla syrup
  • Place the mixture on medium heat and warm until it’s steaming gently but not boiling (around 60C/140F)
  • Use either a milk frother, immersion blender, or balloon whisk to vigorously whisk and aerate the mixture to combine ingredients and create a foamy texture to the milk.
  • Serve in preheated mugs with a sprinkle of spice to garnish

Final Thoughts

Starbucks Chai tea is a modern twist based on an ancient tradition. Although Starbucks has a large range of Chai drinks, the Vanilla Chai Latte isn’t on their menu. It’s easy enough to order anyway, just ask for some vanilla syrup (or sugar-free vanilla syrup) when you order a chai tea latte, or why not get creative in the kitchen and brew your own batch?


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