The $2.50 Trader Joe’s Find That Reminds Me of My Starbucks Order

published May 3, 2021
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Credit: Lauren Masur

I’ve never been a coffee drinker. Not for all-nighters. Not for early mornings. Not even during my post-high school stint as a summer worker at Dunkin’. But I love a chai latte, preferably iced and — until now — from Starbucks. Their version is a great balance of spice and creaminess, a measured mix of chai concentrate and your choice of milk. Soy is always my go-to.

Now, thanks to a recommendation from a college friend, I have figured out how to get my fix at home: the Spiced Chai Black Tea Concentrate from Trader Joe’s.

When I started working from home (about a year before the rest of the world), I had no reason to stop at Starbucks to kick off the day, but I still found myself craving that chai latte. I tried and repeatedly failed to recreate the magic of Starbucks’ version at home with store-bought concentrate and milk. 

In theory I was saving myself the $4.25 I would’ve spent on a grande. But I muscled through lots of attempts that came out too spicy, too watery, or just plain bland. And that led to unfinished cartons and mason jars filled with milky, melted leftovers. 

Credit: Danielle Deavens

With Trader Joe’s concentrate, the difference is clear in the first sip. It is flavorful and spicy, but smooth. Black pepper, allspice, cardamom, ginger, clove, and cinnamon live in perfect harmony in this blend. Unlike other grocery store varieties, the ginger and black pepper don’t assault the senses, but give depth to the other, more mellow flavors. 

How to Make the Trader Joe’s Dupe for a Starbucks Chai Latte

As the instructions suggest, one part concentrate to two parts milk is ideal. Trader Joe’s Non-Dairy Oat Beverage captures the creaminess I enjoyed from soy. And at $4 for two quarts, I can get up to five servings for the cost of one grande latte at Starbucks. Even with the occasional luxurious upgrade — swapping out milk for their Vanilla Coconut & Almond Creamer — there are major time and cash savings to be had. 

This concentrate is great for hot lattes, too, but I have a pro tip for my fellow iced chai lovers: refrigerate the concentrate and milk before using. Pour into an empty glass, swirl with a spoon, and stick the mix in the freezer for a few minutes while you finish preparing the rest of your breakfast. When you’re ready, take out the chilled glass, add ice, and enjoy.