Kahlua Vs. Tia Maria | Are They The Same?

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Kahlua and Tia Maria are some of the finest coffee liqueurs in the world. For a long time, these were the only two coffee liqueurs available and widely known to the world. But have you ever wondered what makes Kahlua vs. Tia Maria different?

Kahlua Vs. Tia Maria

Kahlua and Tia Maria have been two favorite coffee liqueurs for mixologists for ages. However, despite being liqueurs with coffee, the two are different. If you thought you could swap one for another, think again!

Coffee liqueurs have become quite popular amongst people for their multiple uses. You can enjoy them on their own, add them to desserts, or use them as a topping. But not all coffee liqueurs are made from the same ingredients, nor do they taste the same.

In this article, you will find the differences between Kahlua vs. Tia Maria. By learning how different these liqueurs are, you will know how to use them in the best way possible.

What Is Kahlua?

Kahlua Vs. Tia Maria

Renowned coffee liqueur Kahlua was invented in Veracruz, Mexico, in 1936. It is made with 100% Arabica coffee beans and rum.

This coffee liqueur is famously added to cocktails like White Russian, Black Russian, Mudslide, the Espresso Martini, and many more classics, old and new.

Besides, Kahlua is most notably used in desserts like tiramisu and cheesecakes and as a topping for ice creams and other desserts. 

Kahlua has been prized for its versatility and sweet, coffee-like flavor. It can be mixed with heavy cream, tonic, Absolut Vodka, coffee, ginger ale, milk, and club soda.

The ABV of Kahlua original is 20%, which means it is weaker than some other alcoholic beverages. However, in some markets like the UK and Canada, it has been reduced to 16%. 

A commonly asked question is whether Kahlua can get you drunk. The answer is yes. Despite having a low ABV value, you can get drunk after 4 to 5 shots of Kahlua. 

You will get to know more about Kahlua in the sections below.

What Is Tia Maria?

tia maria

Tia Maria was invented in Jamaica during the 1940s. Its main ingredients are Arabica coffee, Jamaican rum, bourbon vanilla, and sugar.

Tia Maria is the first coffee liqueur that was used for the first time to make espresso martini. This acclaimed coffee liqueur is used for making cocktails, ice-cream-based beverages, and more.

It is also famously used to mix in with cola, tonic water, and other carbonated beverages. Tia Maria has a sweet and bitter taste but is more smoother than Kahlua.

Kahlua Vs. Tia Maria | What’s The Difference?

While both Tia Maria and Kahlua are coffee liqueurs, there are key differences that set them apart. Below, I’ve put them head-to-head in 6 different categories, including taste and price.

1. Aroma

You will notice how different they smell when you take a whiff of Kahlua and Tia Maria.

Tia Maria has a complex aromatic structure with caramel, nutty vanilla notes, and a little aroma of alcohol. 

Kahlua, on the other hand, smells like medium-roast coffee with a slight burn of invasive alcohol. As you continue smelling the liqueur, you’ll notice that the alcohol will overpower the coffee’s aroma.

2. Flavor And Texture

If we compare the texture of Kahlua and Tia Maria, we will find that Kahula has a syrupy mouthfeel compared to Tia Maria, which has a thinner viscosity. 

Moreover, there is a significant difference between the flavor of the two coffee liqueurs. Kahlua is known for having a roast coffee flavor and is sweeter. On the other hand, Tia Maria has intense coffee flavors with chocolate, caramel, vanilla, and nutty notes.

Of the two coffee liqueurs, Tia Maria has a smoother finish than Kahlua and has milder alcoholic notes. 

3. Alcohol Content

When it comes to the alcohol content of the two coffee liqueurs, there is no difference here. Both Tia Maria and Kahlua have 20% alcohol by volume (ABV), which is half that of liquors like vodka and whiskey.

This quality makes both liqueurs a great choice to use for cocktails.

4. Price

Just like the alcohol content, both liqueurs again fall around the same price range. Tia Maria has a price tag of around $25 for a 750ml bottle. Kahlua costs, on average, $27.

5. Uses

Both liqueurs are widely used to make cocktails, especially espresso martinis and white Russians. Kahlua and Tia Maria are also used in desserts like tiramisu and cheesecakes and as a topping for ice creams.

But one differentiating factor between the two lies in their neat consumption. While Tia Maria is savored on its own because of having thin viscosity and smoother texture, sipping Kahlua, with its syrupy texture, is generally avoided.

6. Availability 

If you look out to buy either coffee liquors, you will find Kahlua easily accessible in every liquor store. Tia Maria, on the other hand, is not found everywhere.

Top Recipes To Make With Kahlua 

1. White Russian

White Russian is arguably the most popular Kahlua drink. This cocktail mixes vodka with coffee liqueur and cream to create a decadently creamy and sweet beverage. This drink gained popularity from the 1990’s movie The Big Lebowski but has been around since the 1950s. Learn how to make White Russian here.

2. Classic Mudslide

Classic mudslide is the most sophisticated drink out there. It’s safe to say that it is a glorified milkshake featuring coffee liqueur and Irish cream. 

The mudslide was born at a bar called Wreck Bar. When a customer ordered a White Russian, but the bar didn’t have heavy cream, they added Irish cream. The result was mudslide!! Check out how to make a classic mudslide here.

3. Espresso Martini

If you are looking for a lazy afternoon drink, try the espresso martini. This martini pairs the bittersweet coffee with the rich sweetness of Kahlua. To it is added vodka to make a full-flavored sophisticated drink.

Check how to make an espresso martini here.

4. Kahlua Dream Bars

Kahlua Dream Bars

 Apart from the incredible drinks you can make using Kahlua; this coffee liqueur tastes amazing in desserts too! Check out the Kahlua dream bars recipe that features butter and Kahlua filling spread between a crackers crumb base and chocolate glaze. 

I bet you haven’t had a better dessert than this.

5. Kahlua Cheesecake Balls 

Kahlua Cheesecake Balls 

Make festive celebrations a lot more exciting by preparing a rich and creamy dessert, Kahlua Cheesecake Balls. This dessert comes together in 15 minutes and is a no-bake. 

All you need to do is crush Tim Tam biscuits with cream cheese and mix in Kahlua. Make small balls and dip them in melted chocolate. Find out how to make Kahlua cheesecake balls here.

Top Recipes To Make With Tia Maria

1. Jamaican Brandy Alexander

Jamaican Brandy Alexander

This iconic drink is said to be named after Troy Alexander, a bartender at Rectors, a famous New York City restaurant. This drink calls for brandy, fresh cream, and Tia Maria, which makes for the most flavorful coffee-flavored drink.

Find out the exact quantities to make Jamaican Brandy Alexandar here.

2. Espresso Martini

Espresso Martini

Tia Maria also tastes spectacular in an espresso martini. To enjoy the coffee, caramel, and vanilla notes of Tia Maria in a martini, you can check out this easy recipe.

3. Chocolate And Tia Maria Fridge Cake

If you wish to make the most of Tia Maria in the easiest way possible, try out the chocolate and Tia Maria fridge cake. This cake is made using dark chocolate, shortbread, double cream, Greek yogurt, black coffee, and of course, Tia Maria!

This boozy dessert is perfect for those late-night cravings or if you have unexpected guests arriving soon. Learn how to make chocolate and Tia Maria fridge cake here.

4. Tia Maria Cheesecake

Make the most incredible cheesecake by using Tia Maria. This cheesecake features a biscuit base; Tia Maria flavored cheesecake with a Tia Maria topping. This cake is rich, decadent, and all things good! Check out the recipe here.

How To Store Kahlua And Tia Maria 

Every food and beverage item has a shelf life that it comes with, but they can only go good before time if stored correctly. Therefore, it is important to store them properly, especially once opened, to enjoy them to their fullest.

According to manufacturers, the average age of Kahlua original is 4 years, and Kahlua flavors have a shelf life of 2 years. However, an opened bottle of Kahlua tends to deteriorate after 18 months.

That’s not to say that it will affect your health as such. The impact will be felt on its taste, which will not be as good as the new one.

Kahlua should be stored in a cool and dry place and should not be refrigerated.

Comparatively, an opened bottle of Tia Maria has a shorter shelf life. It can offer you its best taste only for 6 to 8 months. Like Kahlua, Tia Maria should also be stored, opened or unopened, in a cool, dry place, away from the sunlight.

Kahlua Vs. Tia Maria | Which One Is Healthier?

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, it’s hard to say which is healthier. But coffee liqueur may offer some benefits with its core ingredients. Coffee is known to be rich in antioxidants. Whereas liqueurs like whiskey, rum, and vodka offer modest heart health benefits when consumed occasionally. 

It is important to remember that any health benefits associated with coffee liqueur are likely due to moderation and sensible consumption. As with any alcoholic beverage, it is important to drink responsibly.

Having said that, the carbs proportion of Kahlua is more than Tia Maria, whereas the latter has more calories.

Kahlua Vs. Tia Maria | Which One Is Tastier?

Between Kahlua and Tia Maria, the latter is a more preferred coffee liquor. The reason being it is a less sweet liquor, having caramel, vanilla, and citrus notes.

Moreover, it also has a smoother mouthfeel as compared to Kahlua. Besides, for coffee lovers, Tia Maria smells more like coffee. 

Kahlua Vs. Tia Maria | Which One Is More Versatile?

Both Tia Maria and Kahlua are popularly used in several drinks. However, Tia Maria is more versatile. While you can add Tia Maria in desserts as well as a number of cocktails, including white Russians and mudslides, it’s a perfectly good solo, too, giving a smooth coffee taste with or without rocks.

Can We Substitute Kahlua For Tia Maria?

Food substitutes are commonly used in the absence of one another. But one must keep in mind that the substitutes shouldn’t alter the taste of a dish, or cocktail in this case, entirely.

Speaking of Kahlua and Tia Maria, although Kahlua may be noticeably sweeter and has a syrup-like mouthfeel, in comparison to Tia Maria, both these coffee liqueurs can be used as a substitute for one another.

Moreover, in case you miss the sweetness and alcoholic aroma of Kahlua in your drink or dessert, you can always add some sugar and increase the alcohol content.

Kahlua Vs. Tia Maria | Which One Is Better?

While using coffee liqueurs, you must first assess the flavors you are looking for. Today, apart from Kahlua and Tia Maria, many coffee liqueurs are available; Bailey Irish Cream, for instance, has found increased popularity. Therefore, choosing which one is better depends entirely on personal preferences.

Kahlua is also known as a ladies’ drink because of having a sweeter taste. This is also the reason why this coffee liqueur is commonly used in desserts and baked goods. 

On the other hand, Tia Maria has more clear coffee notes. Therefore, if you are looking for more coffee-like flavors in your drink, Tia Maria would be a better choice.

However, if you love dessert drinks, Kahlua is the best option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do Kahlua and Tia Maria have the same taste?

While both Kahlua and Tia Maria are coffee liqueurs, they both have different tastes. Kahlua has a sweeter and roast coffee flavor with a slight burn of invasive alcohol. In comparison, Tia Maria has a cleaner coffee flavor with chocolate, caramel, vanilla, and nutty notes.

What is the shelf life of Kahlua Original?

Kahlua Original has a shelf life of 4 years. An opened bottle of Kahlua tastes best for 18 months.

What is the shelf life of Tia Maria?

The shelf life of Tia Maria is considered to be shorter. An opened bottle of Tia Maria tastes best for 6 to 8 months.

What is Kahlua used for?

Kahlua can be savored on the rocks in cocktails, coffee, milk, club soda, baked goods, desserts, and a topping for ice cream.

What is Tia Maria used for?

Tia Maria can be savored on the rocks in cocktails, baked goods, desserts, and a topping for ice cream.

Can Kahlua make you drunk?

While Kahlua has a low ABV value, drinking more than 2 shots can get you drunk.

What is the ABV value of Kahlua Original?

Kahlua Original has an ABV of 20 %. However, the new bottles of Kahlua have a reduced ABV value of 16% in markets like the UK and Canada.

Does Kahlua contain caffeine?

Kahlúa contains about 100 ppm caffeine, which means about 100ml/ liter of product. So, for a standard 1.5 oz drink of Kahlúa, there would be about 5 mg of caffeine.

Should Kahlua be refrigerated?

It is not recommended to refrigerate Kahlua. Kahlua is best stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight.

Does Kahlua contain dairy?

No, Kahlua doesn’t contain dairy.


Kahlua and Tia Maria are two incredibly tasty coffee liqueurs that are widely popular. The two might need clarification to be the same; however, you must remember that there is a significant difference in their taste and aroma. 

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