How an Indian home remedy became the newest alternative to coffee


Listen up, cafes across the world are offering a new, healthier alternative to coffee. The rise of turmeric latte or golden milk, a sweetened blend of the Indian spice with nut milk, is closely linked to the recent superfood status accorded to turmeric.

Turmeric lattes have little in common with their caffeinated counterparts in terms of taste, with the spice being known more for its vibrant colour and subtle, slightly medicinal taste. Their popularity as a global health fad was announced by The Guardian, which called it 2016’s drink of choice. Turmeric lattes are now being offered in cafes in London, Sydney and San Francisco, with numerous recipes, Instagram and Pinterest posts. A Google report on food trends in the US indicates that search for the spice had risen by 300% in the last five years.

In India, turmeric has been an integral part of the culinary tradition for thousands of years. It is used in cooking, wedding ceremonies, beauty products and even in healing ointments. “Its beauty lies in its diverse uses,” award-winning Indian nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar told Mashable.

In particular, haldi-doodh, a drink made of turmeric, warm milk and other spices, has been used as a home remedy for speedy recovery from illnesses, and is valued for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and immunity-boosting properties. As a result, its newfound hip image as turmeric latte has left many south Asians amused.

“It’ s a classic example of how things work in the food, weight loss or the health industry. Local or common food or ingredients of one continent become the exotic ingredient of another, for weight loss and heart health and what have you,” Diwekar says.

Turmeric’s rise to superfood status has been gathering steam over the last few years, with the discovery of its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory qualities resulting in the introduction of capsule supplements and drinks. Market research firm Mintel named it one of the superfoods to watch in 2016, describing its “potential in functional food and drink products such as sports drinks, which could investigate turmeric as an aid to assist recovery from physical activity, as well as supplements”.

However, Diwekar warns against the excessive use of turmeric without the right food combinations, pointing out that it might strip the spice of its medicinal properties. “When you adopt haldi doodh with ‘mylk’ that’s not even dairy, it takes away the collective wisdom and heritage of mixing turmeric in specific proportions with milk which is different from the proportions used in lentils and vegetables,” Diwekar says. “It becomes another ‘me too’ in the current rage of novel foods riding on the #glutenfree #dairyfree #crueltyfree trend. It will soon be replaced by some new trend and will be shot down for the very same benefits that it is being hailed for now.”

For now, turmeric’s international fame spilling over to India. In 2015, an Indian company called Milk Mantra launched packaged turmeric milkshake. On the other hand, organic juice startup Raw Pressery sells booster shots with turmeric, coconut milk, pineapple and pepper, giving a trendy spin to a humble home brew.