Turmeric, a relative of ginger and cardamom, is a perennial plant native to southern Asia. Its ochre-hued root provides curry with its distinctive color, and boasts significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Learn its backstory
Healers have long prescribed turmeric to people coping with conditions ranging from indigestion to forgetfulness. Scientists are still investigating whether turmeric is an effective weapon against cancer, heart disease and arthritis, but generally agree that most healthy adults stand to benefit from adding a gram or two of cut, dried or powdered turmeric to their daily diets.
That recommendation helped propel turmeric to superstar status in 2016. Between November 2015 and January 2016, Google searches for the spice surged by 56 percent.
Presumably, those searchers landed on recipes for turmeric-inflected soups and scrambled eggs with a pinch of turmeric. Mostly, though, they were curious about turmeric-based beverages. According to Google, millions of people clicked on YouTube videos devoted to turmeric tea and “golden milk,” a latte-type drink typically made by simmering nut milk with honey, black pepper and the mustard-yellow spice.
Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website, fed the trend with a turmeric latte recipe calling for coconut sugar and chopped ginger. But some food writers of Indian descent chided turmeric fans who’d gotten into the habit of sipping the spice (as opposed to injecting it directly into their veins, an unproven naturopathic method that last month contributed to a San Diego woman’s death) for ignoring the drink’s cultural context.
Haldi doddh, a combination of cow’s milk, turmeric and ghee, is common sickbed fare in parts of India. “As far as my mother is concerned, there is nothing a tablespoon of turmeric in half a cup of hot milk can’t fix,” Beejoli Shah told Bon Appetit readers.
Still, India is an enormous country. As Mayukh Sen wrote for Food52, the drink doesn’t have the same resonance in Bengali households, including his own. “Haldi doodh is one of many foods that composes India’s culinary identity rather than defines it wholesale,” he concluded.
And order it here
Welkin Coffee, 51 South Market St. A, welkincoffee.com. No phone. (Turmeric and ginger latte, $4)
— Hanna Raskin