When you think of liquid drink concentrates, it’s easy to think of soapy, sugary syrups. Brooklyn’s Dona Chai has worked hard to disrupt that reputation, and has followed its popular chai concentrate with the first organic liquid turmeric concentrate to market, chasing down the wildly popular “golden latte” trend in the wellness and coffee worlds.
Hailing from south Asia, golden milk (or turmeric milk) originates from India as part of ancient holistic medicine, where turmeric is a common ingredient in this practice in a turmeric-milk mixture called haldi-doodh typically consumed for its many perceived health and beauty benefits. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has medicinal properties that can improve memory function and help repair stem cells in the brain, making it literal brain food. Turmeric is also said to work as an anti-inflammatory, preventing moisture loss, reducing redness, and improving the overall smoothness of skin.
“Golden milk” first gained popularity in Australia, the UK, and the West Coast of the United States—popping up in coffee bars like L.A.’s Café Gratitude and Melbourne’s Crimson Bear. When it crept into the East Coast coffee scene earlier this year, Dona Chai founder Amy Rothstein took note. After making chai exclusively for the past three years, she was familiar with its problems—available mixtures were mostly powder-based, making for a difficult brewing process on the barista’s end. Since many of the ingredients in turmeric, or “golden” lattes were the same as Dona Chai’s ingredients, it was an easy move for them to create their own turmeric concentrate.
“I was just like yeah why aren’t we doing this?” she says. “This is gonna be the easiest thing for us.”
Three years earlier, Rothstein was a cafe-hopping grad student in the NYU Steinhardt Food Studies program. With each cafe she visited during her studies, she noticed a need for a chai in New York that wasn’t a sugar explosion, a grainy powder, or a weak tea steeped with milk.
“I noticed that everything was local, you know, like locally roasted coffee,” Rothstein says, “but there wasn’t any option for a local or good quality chai for a chai latte so I thought it was weird.”
Similarly, Rothstein jumped on the turmeric craze, and launched Dona Chai’s turmeric concentrate in July 2017. It’s a slightly sweet and tangy mixture of water, sugar, ginger, turmeric, pink peppercorn, allspice, lemongrass, black pepper, and citric acid. An intentionally healthy concentrate, it has three grams of turmeric, which is the recommended wellness dosage. The black pepper is also dosed with intention. Like haldi-doodh’s base of pepper, Dona Chai’s concentrate also has enough pepper in each serving to activate the full benefits of the turmeric root. Sugar amount: a mere nine grams.
Dona’s turmeric audience has been growing quickly, including George Howell‘s Boston cafes, the Revelator chain, and, closer to home, Brooklyn’s Stonefruit Espresso + Kitchen, where owner Laura Sorensen says the reception at her health-forward, sunny cafe has been positive.
“I just keep joking that turmeric is the new matcha!” says Sorensen.
Whether or not turmeric is in fact the new, golden, matcha, cafegoers can enjoy its popularity just a little bit more easily thanks to Rothstein and Dona Chai’s liquid ingenuity.