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I Tried L.A.’s Trendiest Golden Lattes to See If They Taste Like My Mother’s Haldar Doodh

[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]henever I was sick growing up, my mother forced me to drink haldar doodh, a traditional Indian drink she made with honey-turmeric paste and hot milk. As soon as I woke up and got ready for school, she'd hand me a warm mug of the beverage, after microwaving for one minute.

If my mom wasn’t looking, I’d pour what I could down the drain. But if I absolutely had to drink the haldar doodh, I’d chug it, standing up in our tiny kitchen before letting myself out the back door and walking to elementary school. I hated it, and not just because the turmeric tasted too bitter and flat for my palate. My bigger impetus for resisting the beverage alongside my morning bowl of cereal was that I knew it’d stain my tongue yellow, and that the kids at school would inevitably notice.

As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve come to embrace the turmeric. Haldar doodh, which translates from Gujarati directly to "turmeric milk," is a traditional treatment with coughs and colds, due to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I began drinking haldar doodh or haldar paani ("turmeric water") to help me with allergies. And while turmeric wasn’t always as trendy as it is today, turmeric lattes or golden milks are now available at places all throughout the city.

When seasonal allergies hit me this year, I went back to the basics in some of L.A.’s popular cafés by trying local versions of haldar doodh. June Gloom is lingering, and I hadn’t had a sip in over a decade, but in recent weeks I decided to try a few different places in the city to see how they’d compare to my mother’s, and whether or not I liked them.

Here are four places where I tried the turmeric latte, either iced or hot. 

Photos by Virali Dave.

Roo - Silver Lake

1523 Griffith Park Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] started with a trip to Roo in Silver Lake, where golden milk lattes come with cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, and agave along with the standard turmeric blended into milk. According to my barista Cerissa, Roo sells many of these — as many as their iced tea — but rarely do customers ask for their golden lattes with standard dairy milk. I opted for coconut milk in mine, which I also ordered iced, and sipped it while walking around Silver Lake.

Did it taste like my mother’s? Not at all. It was barely yellow, and while ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper are all ingredients she adds to her cups of cha, they’ve never been part of her haldar doodh. Was it good? Honestly, yes. It wasn’t too sweet or too turmeric-y, and coconut milk worked really well with the well-spiced beverage. 

Nearby, Intelligentsia and La Colombe offered turmeric teas and tisanes, served with hot water — essentially haldar paani. I have a great-aunt who swears by this for colds and recommends avoiding milk but adding ghee to soothe the throat. In search of an experience closer to drinking proper haldar doodh, I passed them up.

Black Elephant - Atwater Village

3195 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]  paid a visit to Black Elephant in Atwater Village, where a friend recommended the golden milk lattes. This was the closest I got to my mother’s version of the drink. Co-owner Heidy Fu gave me a barely-sweet latte made with turmeric ginger extract syrup, served hot with coconut milk as per my request.

She added black pepper on top, which she explained was to “activate” the turmeric. Did it taste like my mom’s? Yes. Was it good? My mother might say yes. But I think I’ll stick to their coffee beverages when I visit again.

Go Get Em Tiger - Larchmont Village

230 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap] he turmeric milk at Go Get Em Tiger in Larchmont was very similar in taste to the one at Black Elephant. Both included generous amounts of turmeric and not too much sweetener. GGET’s was made with their house macadamia almond milk, which made it nuttier, thicker, and less milk-y, and touches of ginger, and honey. This latte and that served at Roo were tied for my favorites.

Woodcat - Echo Park

1532 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap] also stopped by Woodcat in Echo Park, where the iced turmeric latte with oat milk set me back seven dollars, costing at least two bucks more than every other latte I tried.

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Turmeric is ubiquitous in Indian cuisine, used in a wide variety of savory dishes for the added color and for its anti-inflammatory properties. The same can be said for milk. For my mother, making me a cup of haldar doodh was as simple as using two ingredients she always had at home, a third if she wanted to add a sweetener. 

But despite its ubiquity, I couldn’t find haldar doodh at any Indian restaurants I visited. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Indian restaurant make them, nor could I imagine an Indian person going into a restaurant and paying five or more dollars to purchase something they could easily mix together at home.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Indian restaurants begin offering turmeric milk in the next few years. If they know people will order something off the menu, why wouldn’t restaurant owners include the item, especially when it can be sold for such a high markup?

But until then, it’s an off-putting experience seeing something you were once bullied or teased for — i.e. drinking haldar doodh and going to school with a yellow tongue — become a trend, especially a trend that costs between $7 per cup to buy into.

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