Dirty Chai – The Engineer’s Little Helper


From time to time, I still see tweets about asking about the dirty chai.  The hallmark of any rough morning or caffeine-deficient situation, the dirty chai combines many things that are both delicious and useful into a small, portable package.  A little background…

What most people refer to as “chai” is actually a specific kind of spiced tea with milk known as Masala Chai.  I’ve been drinking these things for years.  The smooth taste is much more agreeable to me than strong coffee.  On a cold day, it really hits the spot with its combination of spices and richness.  However, one of the downsides of the delicious chai is the low amount of caffeine.  Due to the tea used and the brewing process, very little caffeine makes it into the drink.  Great if you are looking for something to drink right before bed or to calm you down.  Not so great if you find yourself in need of an energy infusion, or in my case, a jumpstart at the beginning of the day.  After all, hot drinks without caffeine are like beer without alcohol.  What’s the point?

Jennifer Huber introduced me to the concept of a “dirty” chai.  After ordering your typical hot chai drink, have the barista pour in an additional shot of espresso.  I wasn’t for sure the first time I ordered this drink, even going so far as to order it by recipe instead of using the sobriquet “dirty”.  When the barista confirmed that this was indeed “dirty”, I knew I’d found something good.  By adding the additional shot of espresso, the caffeine content is kicked through the roof.  The bitter flavor I typically associate with espresso shots is mellowed by the rich flavor of the chai.  A win/win situation.  If you find yourself in need of an additional pick-me-up, you can double the amount of espresso for a “double dirty” chai.  I hesitate to recommend the triple shot version before you’ve built up a tolerance, as mainlining that much espresso with chai could lead to molecular vibrations that will cause you to pass through solid objects or travel back in time.  Caveat drinkor.

In case you need a better example of the universal appeal of the dirty chai, check out this little example from Tech Field Day 5 in San Jose from February:

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2 thoughts on “Dirty Chai – The Engineer’s Little Helper

  1. I’ve just recently discovered this wonderful drink. In true nerd form, I had to google the term to double-check because of the high percentage of baristas who have asked, “What’s a dirty chai?” Ah, the joys of living in Ohio…

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