Turmeric Latte Smackdown: Taste-Testing 4 Wellness Drinks

Can a golden drink achieve culinary nirvana?
April 17, 2017
by Randi Gollin

By now, just about everyone in the foodie universe knows that turmeric, a prominent ingredient in Indian curries, has magical, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties. In fact, everything this ginger-related plant touches turns to gold, from the turmeric custard pie served at Four & Twenty Blackbirds to the fire dragon bowl at NoLita hot spot De Maria, featuring a turmeric-poached egg. But the turmeric item that really seems to have legs lately is the turmeric latte, a creamy concoction that’s usually made with almond and/or coconut milk, and served hot. It turns out that this “trendy” immunity-boosting drink has ancient roots: It’s based on the Hindi haldi-doodh, an Indian remedy for colds. We tried four of the most interesting contenders around town and rated them below in, well, kale chips. Check out the verdict below.

Golden Milk. Randi Gollin

Turmeric Latte No. 1: Cafe Integral

Price: $4.50

“There’s no coffee in that,” the counter guy cautions as we place our order for Golden Milk at this small, modern NoLita cafe, a stone’s throw from buzzy Kenmare Street. It’s a reasonable warning given that the owner, Zagat 30 Under 30 alum César Vega, travels to his native Nicaragua for coffee beans, and roasts them locally in small batches.

As we wait for our java-free drink at the communal wood table, it becomes clear that this is no pre-fab operation: The spices are ground to order, the nut milks are housemade and everything is prepped and prepared with precision. At last, our Golden Milk arrives and while it’s served in a simple brown paper cup, each sip surpasses expectations. We can taste the richness of the almond and coconut milk blend, detect glints of cardamom and pink salt and feel the pleasant, warming tingle of ginger, black pepper and turmeric root. (Black pepper enhances the bioavailability of turmeric's health-boosting ingredient, curcumin.) Flecks of coconut resting on top of the thick foam add a delightful finishing touch. 

149 Elizabeth St.; no phone

Rating: 4 kale chips

Gold leaftopped turmeric latte. Courtesy Cafe Clover

Turmeric Latte No. 2: Cafe Clover

Price: $9

There’s definitely coffee in the white cup at this Village spot, a classy hangout with blue banquettes and sidewalk seating known for its locavore, health-oriented menu of salads, sandwiches, grain bowls and mains. Chef David Standridge’s iteration combines La Colombe's Fishtown espresso with a choice of milk (whole, skim, soy or almond), plus cold-pressed turmeric juice, and fellow antioxidants, cinnamon and black pepper. The pièce de résistance: a snippet of gold leaf resting on a bed of foam, which elevates this latte into a league of its own. Though a bit milkier than anticipated (we chose almond over cow — real milk seems like heresy) the espresso gives the drink a nutty kick, while the other ingredients add a subtle hint of spice. In short: a slightly exotic, though rather expensive, afternoon pick-me-up.

Side note: The retail sibling to Cafe Clover, Clover Grocery, just opened next door.

10 Downing St., 212-675-4350

Rating: 3.5 kale chips

Golden latte. Courtesy of Bluestone Lane

Turmeric Latte No. 3: Bluestone Lane

Price: $5

At this cheerful Melbourne-based chain around town, golden lattes are served with a side of Aussie friendliness. The West Village location, which boasts a sidewalk cafe, is packed to the gills on weekend mornings, full of Madewell-clad millennials who line up for the chain's flat whites and avocado smash toast. The server points out that its vegan wellness lattes are available as flights (beetroot, matcha, turmeric) or stand-alones. We go for the gold, and minutes later, the hot turmeric treat arrives in a shapely glass, complete with a dusting of nutmeg and a foamy heart flourish, courtesy of the barista. The latte’s deep yellow color contrasts beautifully with the blue saucer, upping its eye appeal. Though made from almond milk and a premixed turmeric spiced blend, it doesn’t lack for flavor: We detect the heat of turmeric, cayenne and ginger, the zing of pink salt and the subtle sweetness of coconut sugar and coconut powder. Perhaps a beetroot latte next?

55 Greenwich Ave.; 646-368-1988

Multiple locations

Rating: 3 kale chips

Golden Mylk. Courtesy of Blake Lane

Turmeric Latte No. 4: Blake Lane

Price: $5.50

Given the trendy space, lined with white subway tiles and plants dotting the wood block counter, plus the menu of tempting health-minded items, from popcorn with nutritional yeast to poke with black rice, we have high hopes for Blake Lane's turmeric latte. A premade mixture of almond milk, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper and honey, the hot Golden Mylk is served in a glass mug topped with a cloud of froth. The mustard color is intriguing, the flavor, not so much: While tasty enough, there’s little evidence of spice or heat, plus it’s much too sweet. It’s the first latte we leave half finished. Maybe a shot of espresso would have perked it up.

1429 3rd Ave.; 212-988-4700

Rating: 2.5 kale chips

latte art
upper eastside