Coloured in gold and pink, superfood lattes sprout in Vancouver

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      Lattes—traditionally one part espresso, one part steamed milk—have seen innumerable interpretations in recent years, now crafted and infused with everything from oatmeal to chocolate to, yes, pumpkin spice. One health-oriented remix of the beverage, however, is trading in the caffeine for foods that colour the cuppa in shades of yellow, pink, blue, and even purple.

      If not at cafés and juiceries around town, you’ve doubtless spotted them on Instagram: mugs of rainbow-hued coffees occasionally accompanied by hashtags like #mermaidlatte, #goldenmylk, or #crimsonlatte. Collectively known as “superfood lattes”, these noncaffeinated sips ditch the espresso for powerhouse ingredients like turmeric, sea minerals, and beetroot, which give them their fun, out-there hues. In addition to being extremely photogenic, the drinks have also gained a loyal following for their supposed health benefits.

      “In the simplest idea, they’re basically steamed milk with any nutrient-rich food that is considered beneficial for your health and well-being,” Karen Danudjaja, cofounder of local latte-mix producer Blume, explains by phone.

      Having discovered turmeric as a natural anti-inflammatory remedy for her mom’s arthritis, Danudjaja partnered with friend Ella Dalling to launch Blume—a Vancouver-based maker of vegan, organic, and easy-to-brew latte mixes—last year. The company’s bestselling turmeric concoction combines that spice with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and black pepper, for example, while the beetroot blend contains beetroot powder, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

      Users are instructed to add a splash of hot water and one cup of hot or cold milk or “mylk”—a nondairy alternative—to one teaspoon of the powder, which creates a golden-yellow (turmeric) latte or crimson (beetroot) latte. Sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, or sugar may be introduced as needed.

      A latte made from Blume's cacao-turmeric latte mix, which combines these two ingredients with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper, and ashwagandha.

      Turmeric is largely made up of curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Natural-health proponents say the active ingredient improves brain function and lowers the risk of certain forms of disease and cancer, though such claims have not been proven in evidence-based research. Meanwhile, preliminary studies suggest that beetroot—the taproot part of the beet plant—may lower blood pressure, aid in digestion, and improve heart and liver health, among other benefits. Both foods may also boost energy levels, making them excellent substitutes for caffeine.

      “You could bite a chunk of turmeric, but nobody really wants to do that, right?” Danudjaja says. “So this [consuming superfood lattes] is just a very easy, forgiving way to incorporate it into your diet.”

      At Nectar Juicery, superfood lattes are prepared with adaptogenic herbs, plants rooted in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine that are said to help the body better respond to mental strain. Combining adaptogens such as chaga, reishi, and ashwagandha with a house-made almond-cashew-date mylk, coconut oil, and raw honey, the local shop offers a variety of the plant-based beverage which may be customized to address different health and dietary needs.

      “They are going to be aiding with your stress response, so they’re going to help lower your cortisol [the hormone that is released during times of stress],” claims Amy Bunnage, retail manager at Nectar Juicery. “They’re essentially giving your inner body a little miniworkout.”

      Bunnage gets a kick out of seeing Vancouverites replacing their daily caffeine dose—which may cause irritability, insomnia, and other issues for some—with superfood lattes. “We love them because they’re taking your daily ritual and they’re making it your remedy,” she says.

      As pretty and tasty as these lattes may be, do the health-related claims hold up? While research surrounding the positive effects of adaptogenic herbs is murky, Annie Tsang, a registered dietitian at Vancouver’s Elements Wellness Centre, says there are pros in consuming superfoods like turmeric and beetroot—to an extent. “There have definitely been studies and research showing that there are benefits with these ingredients, mainly because they’re great antioxidants,” she explains by phone. “But whether people need them in a huge or excessive amount is still unclear.”

      Tsang recommends incorporating such items into your cooking to lessen the concentration as needed. Whether you opt to ingest such nutrients in latte form or otherwise, it’s important to maintain a well-rounded diet and introduce ingredients to your body in small portions. “Don’t stick with one ingredient,” Tsang advises. “Whatever you see—anything that’s new—just try it in moderation because we don’t know what the research is going to bring us to.”