The 12 Absolute Best Starbucks Chai Drinks, Ranked

Starbucks has an ever-evolving and fluctuating menu, but the base menu generally includes coffee and tea in various iterations. Of the different types of tea available, chai is perhaps the most flexible and prone to secret menu variations.

Reader's Digest explains that chai is a Hindi-Urdu word that translates to "tea." Typically, it's a warming tea with cinnamon, cardamom, black tea, and other spices, depending on the variation. At Starbucks, there are two ways to get your chai: through a chai concentrate or tea bags. The chai concentrate is used for most chai menu items, but you can also order a simple chai with tea bags if you wish.

Though the base chai menu items are delicious, Starbucks fans have made quite an impressive list of secret menu items that you certainly won't want to miss. A "secret menu," as it is called, is the unofficial name given to specialty drinks that are highly modified from items on the regular menu. While this may make you uncomfortable initially, these secret menu items are pretty easy to order in person or through the Starbucks app. You'll love what a few customizations can do.

12. Chai

The most basic of chai drinks you can order at Starbucks is, well, a chai. Since this is one of Starbucks' base drinks, you won't need to make any modifications unless you want to. This drink uses chai tea bags rather than the chai concentrate used for most other Starbucks chai drinks. Along with these bags, your barista will prepare them by adding ultra-hot water right over the top to begin the steeping process.

When you pick up your cup, you'll notice immediately how hot it is. This is because Starbucks' hot teas use the same hot water tap. While we recommend you allow your chai to cool dramatically before enjoying it, you'll also want to be sure you don't let your chai sit for too long. After all, your chai will come with tea bags still steeping in the water. If you let it go too long, you risk it being too strong.

We like that this chai is pretty cinnamon-forward, but we did not like how thin this base chai feels. We recognize that it is just tea bags and hot water, but to be more enjoyable, we think the drink needs a little extra. Therefore, we recommend adding some milk of your choice and perhaps a little sweetener to brighten the flavor and even thicken the drink. You could even order it with a bit of flavoring if you want.

11. Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte

In the fall, all things pumpkin spice flood restaurants, craft stores, and kitchens. Of course, Starbucks is no different. With the arrival of the pumpkin spice latte comes the ability to use that flavoring in different ways. Since pumpkin spice is full of warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, it pairs nicely with chai.

This drink begins as a Chai Tea Latte. Ask your barista to include equal pumps of chai concentrate and pumpkin spice sauce: one and a half pumps for a tall, two for a grande, and two and a half for a venti. You want to ask for a little less chai than usual because you'll be asking for some pumpkin spice sauce, and if you do not decrease the amount of concentrate, the drink will be way too thick. To finish off the drink, ask for whip on top with pumpkin spice topping sprinkles. You can do this as a hot or iced drink, so follow what seems right for you.

Though this drink was seasonally perfect, we found that the pumpkin sauce overshadowed the chai quite a bit. But if you want your chai toned down a little and sweetened, this may be an excellent drink for you, even if Starbucks' pumpkin sauce is not your favorite. Though the pumpkin sauce flavors obscured the chai ones, it was more the spices than the actual pumpkin flavor that came through.

10. Chocolate Cinnamon Chai Latte

While some of the secret menu items for chai are seasonal, the Chocolate Cinnamon Chai Latte is a year-round secret menu option. Like the Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte, this one also begins with a chai latte as the base drink. We recommend ordering it without water so you'll have less diluted chai. Specify that you would like whole milk for your milk choice because this will create an ultra-creamy drink. Then, ask for it to be made with cinnamon dolce syrup in quantities of one pump for tall, two pumps for grande, and three for venti. In the same amounts, ask for white mocha sauce. Request that your barista adds whip and cinnamon dolce sprinkles.

You can order this drink hot or iced, but white mocha sauce generally does better when mixed with warm beverages. When you order it warmed, you'll also get frothed milk, which gives your latte an incredibly creamy feel. We love the smoothness of the white mocha because it provides a nice base for the spice of the chai. White mocha is much milder than a regular mocha, so it's the perfect choice for this creamy drink.

Though we liked this secret menu option, we would recommend upping the pump count for your cinnamon dolce to help accentuate those chai flavors even further. You could also ask for an additional pump of regular dark mocha to make this a Tuxedo Chocolate Cinnamon Chai Latte.

9. Iced Chai Tea Latte with Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Foam

Starbucks' iced coffee drinks got a major upgrade with the addition of cold foam. First introduced in December 2014 at the Seattle Reserve Roastery, cold foam became available in stores in April 2018, according to Starbucks. And the strawless lids that became the norm made it even easier for you to enjoy that delicious, rich cold foam taste. While Starbucks has many options on the menu that include cold foam, you can also add it to any iced drink on the menu, including iced chai lattes.

Ordering this one is very easy. Ask your barista for an iced chai topped with vanilla sweet cream cold foam. You can also ask for pumpkin cold foam if it is in season and you're looking to get that little boost of everyone's favorite fall squash.

Though we did like this one, we didn't find it to be too much different than a typical iced chai. In fact, the extra foam on top seemed to mute the taste of the chai perhaps too much. So instead of getting an iced chai with vanilla sweet cream cold foam, we recommend ordering an iced chai with some vanilla. That way, you can enjoy that warm vanilla taste without getting a drink that is too creamy and overruns the chai flavor.

8. Chai Latte

When you think about ordering a basic chai from Starbucks, you probably aren't imagining the tea bag variety; the Chai Latte is likely the drink you're imagining. For this simple drink, there is no need to order it any different than what is listed on the menu since this is a Starbucks base drink.

A Chai Latte is simply chai concentrate, water, and milk. You can, however, choose a different type of milk, adjust the temperature, add more chai, and even remove the water. Of course, all of these options are going to be based on your preference, but it's nice to know those customizations are available to you.

We enjoyed this chai latte quite a lot. We found the warm chai mixed with the frothed milk to be very comforting and enjoyable to sip. Although this is essentially the same drink as an iced chai latte (but warm), we found this one to be creamier than the iced chai. It's the perfect drink on a cold, rainy day when your only plans are to snuggle beside a fireplace with a warm book. A chai latte is the epitome of a cozy drink.

7. Chai Cookie Latte

With all of its delicious spices, chai is perfectly poised to create a lovely base for a drink inspired by cookies. To order a Chai Cookie Latte, order a chai tea latte with an extra pump of chai syrup and hazelnut syrup in increments of one pump for a tall, two for a grande, and three for a venti. Then, ask your barista to add cinnamon dolce sprinkles on top. For an extra bit of crunchy, you can also ask your barista to add some java chips to the drink if they have any on hand.

We really liked this one and especially enjoyed the extra pump of chai. Combined with the hazelnut syrup, this did a whole lot more work than we expected at bringing out those warm flavors. Like the regular chai latte, this drink is ideally suited for an evening relaxing by a warm fire. It is definitely a cool weather drink, but you could order it as an iced drink if you wanted to.

6. Chai Creme Frappuccino

Starbucks says that its iconic Frappuccino drink dates back to 1995 when the brand first introduced this blended beverage. Initially, the only two options were mocha and coffee. The drinks were made with Italian roast coffee that had been double brewed on site, and they didn't even have their whipped cream top yet. Of course, that would change, and in 2002, the first non-coffee-based Frappuccino emerged in the line of Frappuccino Blended Crème. And today, you can order a Chai Crème Frappuccino.

While many Frappuccinos do not have caffeine, that is not the case for the Chai Frappuccino since it has tea in it. Even still, we loved this drink. It is extra smooth and tastes nearly like a milkshake. In fact, this milkiness almost overwhelms that chai flavor you love.

The Chai Crème Frappuccino is not a secret menu item, and you can order it right off the menu with no modifications. Please be aware that the creme base is quite heavy, so if you're looking to avoid dairy or have a sensitive stomach, this probably isn't the best choice. Even still, with a simple milk substitution, this drink may be the perfect blended beverage for chai lovers.

5. Iced Chai Latte

Many secret menu chai drinks start with an Iced Chai Latte as their base, but this drink is excellent all on its own. Like the hot chai, an Iced Chai Latte includes the chai base, cold water, and milk.

This drink is lovely as is. We enjoyed how creamy it is, and while the chai is very smooth, it's still perfectly spicy. Like the hot Chai Latte, the iced one is excellent on its own, but if you choose to, there are all kinds of ways you can alter this basic chai latte without changing the entirety of the drink. For example, try out oat milk or soy milk, and request that no water be added. If you do this, you'll end up with an even creamier drink with a deliciously spicy bite.

If you're looking for a smooth, creamy drink that is also icy and delicious, we think you'll absolutely love the Iced Chai Latte.

4. Cookie Butter Chai

Insider explains that cookie butter is a blend of ground cookie butter and vegetable oils. This will create a spread similar to what you find in a peanut butter jar. It even has a slight gingerbread taste, but that doesn't mean it's just a holiday spread.

If you're looking for a drink that blends chai and cookie flavors, this one may be perfect. As a secret menu item, it requires only a few minor modifications that are very easy to ask for. Begin with a chai latte and ask your barista to substitute soy milk for regular milk and add brown sugar syrup.

Soy milk may seem like an odd change, but that soy milk gives the drink an excellent base for the chai that a cookie needs to have. Then, the brown butter syrup sweetens it up way up for the actual cookie taste and feel. We enjoyed this one just slightly more than the typical Chai Latte because we enjoyed the extra sweetness from the brown sugar syrup. It's also great that this drink doesn't need a lot of modifications to create, and that is always a win in secret menu items.

3. Dirty Chai

A Dirty Chai is perhaps the best-known of all secret menu items. In fact, if you order a Dirty Chai and call it by name, there's a chance your barista will know precisely what you're talking about. They may not, but if they do, they will know to add a shot of espresso to your chai latte. Like many other items on this list, a Dirty Chai can be ordered hot or iced; both are delicious. You can change the number of espresso shots in your drink, too. According to Segafredo, the rumor is that the Dirty Chai was born out of an accident in England in the 1990s. According to coffee legend, the barista accidentally added espresso to the chai, and the forgiving customer drank it anyway. The popularity allegedly spread from there.

We love a Dirty Chai, and our favorite way to order this one is iced. Funny enough, we find that a Dirty Chai with one shot tastes very similar to a regular chai latte with only the slightest coffee taste. Therefore, we would recommend adding at least two shots to get that beautiful mix of both coffee and chai. If you prefer your chai lattes iced like we do, consider ordering extra ice as well. That way, when your ice melts a little faster thanks to the hot espresso, you still have ice to keep your drink cooler longer.

2. TikTok Iced Chai Latte

Social media is a hotbed of delicious secret menu options. This TikTok Iced Chai Latte has an iced chai latte base drink. Then, ask for oat milk instead of 2% milk, brown sugar syrup, and vanilla sweet cream cold foam. Depending on the drink size you are ordering, you'll want to alter the number of pumps you request. For a tall, ask for two pumps of brown sugar syrup, a grande should get three, and a venti should get four. Of course, you can change those numbers if that sounds like a bit too much sugar, or if you are afraid it will overrun your chai.

We loved this drink and found it to be very sweet, but not overly so. The brown sugar syrup does a great job of complementing the chai without overwhelming or erasing those spicy flavors. While the base milk of this drink is dairy free, the cold foam on top is not, so if you are following a vegan diet or avoid dairy, don't ask for the cold foam on top. Instead, you could ask for an extra pump of vanilla, so you don't miss out on any of those vanilla flavors.

Request pumpkin cold foam instead of vanilla to turn this drink into a fall treat. And if you want a little extra caffeine, add an espresso shot to this drink to make it a Dirty TikTok Iced Chai Latte.

1. Apple Pie Frappuccino

There are many ways to mix chai, syrups, and milk at Starbucks, but our absolute favorite is a rather unexpected option. There are a few different ways to order an Apple Pie Frappuccino, but we, of course, took the chai route. Begin with the base drink of a Chai Frappuccino, ask your barista to line the cup with caramel, add apple brown sugar syrup, and add apple drizzle atop the whipped cream. Like other drinks, be sure to modify the syrup based on the size of the drink you ordered, with a tall getting two pumps, a grande getting three, and a venti receiving four. We were so surprised by this drink, and we absolutely loved it. Starbucks has some excellent secret menu Frappuccinos, but this one is on a whole different level.

This Frappuccino is very sweet and tastes very much like apple pie a la mode due to the richness of the Frappuccino creme base. With the syrup, it definitely has that apple taste to it, but it isn't a fresh apple taste and smell. Instead, it is closer to a gooey apple filling, since the chai brings those apple pie seasonings into the mix. The caramel drizzle is more aesthetic than anything else, but it is an excellent addition anyway. It's essentially a perfect dessert in a cup.