The ladies sitting in the cafe appear to be on a coffee date. Animated chatter over a couple of lattes and everything seems perfectly normal. But one key ingredient is missing: coffee. This scenario is playing out more and more in the eastern suburbs of both Melbourne and Sydney, where the demand for lattes without coffee is on the rise.
It's a trend driven by a wellness crew who are swapping their daily 'cup o' joe' for a 'cup o' glow' in the form of hot drinks containing superfoods such as turmeric, cinnamon and green tea. They're seeking a fix sans caffeine that is alkalinising or anti-inflammatory or both. It's a trend that has gained traction faster in Melbourne, when winter arrived several months ago while Sydney kept basking in smoothie weather.
At the newly opened Fresh Organic Goods in Richmond Marni Robinson is serving red lattes to a growing clientele who often pair the 'espresso', made of ground rooibos tea, with organic almond milk that Robinson makes in store. The taste is sweet, slightly bitter, slightly astringent yet creamy.
Popular in the coffee shops of South Africa where rooibos is grown, a heavily sweetened version has even made Starbucks menu overseas. Locals are getting hooked and Robinson says many appreciate having a latte alternative which is delicious without the caffeine hit.
Golden milk or haldi ka doodh is an Ayurvedic healing drink that Indian mothers give their children in winter, particularly if they have a cough or sore throat. The recipes vary slightly but always involve simmering turmeric, ginger and black pepper in milk. They are being reinvented using espresso machines, and the golden latte at Melbourne Street Organics in Malvern is a feisty brew that delivers a fantastically spicy, earthy drink which customers are embracing as a tasty anti-inflammatory cuppa.
"I started making them after customers returned from a health retreat in Byron Bay and asked if I could replicate them," says owner Joseph Morrison. "I gave it a try and put it on the menu."
Now the small cafe is serving up to 40 a day and demand is growing. At Organica in Prahran they add nutmeg and offer a pinch of cayenne pepper for extra kick. While there aren't the heart palpitations often associated with drinking too much coffee, down too many golden lattes and you may be in for the ginger sweats.
Finally the green latte, also known as a matcha latte, is all over New York and increasingly common here. Milk takes away the bitter edge of the powdered green tea and makes a drink that when sweetened is reminiscent of melted matcha ice-cream. There's caffeine but the alkalinising greeness of the tea makes it sought after by the balancing crowd. At Earth to Table in Bondi they do a brisk trade in matcha lattes served with their raw desserts – it's the wellness version of 'coffee and cake'.
Even thoughit's still a niche market mostly confined to cafes that also serve superfood porridge, it is certainly gaining fans. At Serotonin Dealer in Melbourne's Burnley the hot drink menu, which includes a golden latte and cacao-coconut latte, is outselling the coffee menu. In line with our are increasing obsession with all things healthy, our tip is that this will not be an isolated occurrence.
Haldi ka doodh (golden milk)
Haldi ka doodh (golden milk) is easy to make at home, just make sure you don't spill any on the carpet; turmeric is a famous dyeing agent.
½ tsp turmeric (fresh grated or powder)
½ tsp fresh grated ginger
2 cups milk
honey (optional, not traditional)
optional spices include cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and cayenne pepper
Toast the spices in a little ghee first if you wish or simply add them to milk in a pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 minutes and strain into cups. If you want to, add honey once the drink has cooled a little.