Kahlua vs Tia Maria: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE IN 2022


When you think of drinking alcohol, you will presume that this means hard liqueurs mixed with soda and tonic water, sipping champagne or wine, refreshing, fruity cocktails, or tequila shots. But have you ever heard of coffee and liqueur?

This is actually a delicious concoction and a favorite by many, to the point there are coffee liqueurs around!

Two of the more popular coffee liqueur brands go out to Tia Maria and Kahlua, and it makes you wonder: What makes these different?

Short Answer:

They both have a similar price and ABV but different components, as Tia Maria is made of Jamaican rum while Kahlua is made of Kahlua concentrate.

Continue reading to learn more about the differences between Tia Maria vs Kahlua!


What is Tia Maria?

image of Tia Maria

Tia Maria is very similar to Kahlua but with different origin stories and slightly different ingredients. (*)

Tia Maria has different origin stories! One story says that Tia Maria was in the records in the 1700s, while another story claims that Tia Maria was discovered by someone named Dr. Evans after the Second World War. And there’s another story claiming that the drink was made in 1930 in Jamaica!

Either way, what we know about the coffee liqueur is that it’s made from Jamaican coffee beans, Jamaican rum, vanilla, sugar, caramel, citric acid, and water. And obviously, this liqueur was created in Jamaica.

Learn more: What’s a Great Tia Maria Substitute? (You Should REPLACE This!)

What is Kahlua?

image of  Kahlua

Kahlua is one of the most famous coffee liqueur brands worldwide, made of Arabica coffee, rum, caramel, water, and sugar. It was made in Mexico in 1936 but only became popular internationally after being imported to the USA.

Fun fact: Kahlua Original Coffee Liqueur is made from the highest-quality ingredients from rural Veracruz, Mexico.

This coffee liqueur has a bittersweet coffee bean, roasted chestnut aroma, and multilayered flavors of sweet butter and black coffee. As you pour Tia Maria into your glass, you’ll see a deep brown color like you’re about to drink a cup of coffee!

Pro-tip: You can make your own version of Kahlua liqueur at home! Make sure you use white rum or vodka, which is cheaper. You may also add vanilla extract for extra flavor.

Is Tia Maria Like Kahlua?

What Tia Maria and Kahlua have in common are their prices and ABV. They can cost between $25-30 and have an ABV of 20% and similar caffeine content.

But what about what they are different in?

1. Aroma

When you take a whiff of Kahlua, it 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 aroma.

With Tia Maria, it smells a bit more like a cleaner coffee with caramel and nutty vanilla notes. There is a minor alcohol aroma, though not as strong as Kahlua.

2. Flavor and Texture

In terms of flavor and texture, Kahlua has a more syrupy mouthfeel going down with more sweetness and roast coffee flavor. You’ll also taste the caramel mixed with alcohol.

As for Tia Maria, it’s a bit thinner in viscosity and would go down with bolder and more intense flavors of coffee, chocolate, caramel, nuttiness, and vanilla. The mid-palate and finish have a medium alcohol warmth with a long, bittersweet coffee finish.

Some people say that Kahlua is a better option because of its popularity and stronger alcohol taste and sweetness. However, others appreciate Tia Maria because of the smooth flavors and finish without the alcohol being too strong.

That said, it all boils down to preferred taste; there is no better coffee liqueur as it depends on you! For us, we like using Kahlua if we want more of the alcohol flavor, while Tia Maria is made best for the warm spice taste.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you left with other questions regarding Tia Maria and Kahlua? Check out our frequently asked questions section below!


If you can’t use alcohol, you can use black coffee as a substitute for mocktails or baked goods. Coffee extract is another great substitute, though it contains trace amounts of alcohol.

Wrapping It Up

Did you learn about the differences between Tia Maria vs Kahlua? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! We’re glad you’re more knowledgeable about what you can get in your liqueur store for your recipes.

And if you would like to learn more about the different liqueurs, food, and other drinks, we’ve got you covered here at Nomspedia.

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