Your Guide to Melbourne's colourful latte scene
If you haven't been living under a rock the last year, you will have noticed people sipping green, pink and yellow lattes all across Melbourne. So, to help you make an informed decision before switching your usual, here is everything you need to know about this latest trend from a Nutritionist's perspective.
Matcha is the whole green tea leaf, stone ground to create a beautiful vibrant powder, traditionally brewed for use in tea ceremonies in Japan. High quality green tea like Matcha is an anti-oxidant powerhouse, shown in various studies to be beneficial for fat reduction, heart disease and general health. Matcha Lattes swap the coffee for Matcha, however this is not a Melbourne invention - when I was in Japan a few years ago you could buy them in many places, even our host had Matcha latte coffee pods for his Nespresso machine!
These pretty pink lattes are great for the active body. Full of nitrates, beetroot increases availability of nitric oxide in the body, which is essential for muscle contraction it also acts like a vasodilator. This means it relaxes our smooth muscle cells within the arteries, effectively reducing blood pressure. Studies have also found that nitrate supplementation reduces the oxygen costs of exercise, which can lead to increased tolerance of intense exercise, enhancing performance. Beetroot is also high in anti-oxidants, which are essential for tackling free radical activity which can be increased in instances of physical stress. Most cafes use concentrated beetroot powder or add a little beet juice.
"Golden" Tumeric Lattes
Supposedly great for immune health via it's anti-inflammatory mechanisms. However it is debatable whether the powdered form of tumeric used contains enough of the curcumuloids (the main active anti-inflammatory compounds) to have a great effect, as they are also poorly absorbed (although apparently peppercorns and fat increases your absorption.). Tumeric extract and supplements, with a higher concentration of the active compounds have been shown to have beneficial effects in rats with regards to endothelial function, blood sugar and antioxidative effects. So, while tumeric is definitely being researched thoroughly as a functional food, I couldn't find enough research studies to back up the health claims of a tumeric latte.
These are the new kids on the block, a combination of powdered medicinal mushrooms used in Chinese medicine for a very long time. Like Matcha, here you will be drinking the whole mushroom, just in powdered form. Health effects have been shown to include anti-inflammatoy, anti-oxidant as well as helping with relaxation and improving cognitive function. Cordyceps might also be a key player in helping improve exercise performance. I quite like the idea of a mushroom latte and love the taste of mushroom tea! Almost chocolatey!
A healthy alternative to coffee?
Is it just matcha, beetroot and tumeric you are drinking? Each cafe has their own take on these new drinks. Some use sweetened vanilla almond milk. Others use a type of matcha or beetroot powder which already comes prepackaged with added sugar. Chances are, if you are drinking one of these and they taste super sweet - they are probably full of sugar and other added ingredients. So, while the health benefits may be great for some of these products, consuming them in this form every day with all that extra energy from the added sugar could mean your teeth and waist line are being sacrificed. In any case, as long as you are not drinking excessive amounts of coffee the caffeine and polyphenol content of the drink has been shown to actually be beneficial for cardiovascular health. So, if you love your coffee, I wouldn't stress too much about changing your daily brew.
Worth the hype?
Being super trendy at the moment, prices are pretty high. The going rate for a regular matcha latte is about $5 but I have seen these and Tumeric lattes being sold for $8 each! Personally, I am definitely loving that matcha is more widely available and this is a drink that I will be ordering - I have always been a tea girl. However not all matcha powder is made equal so check to see what brand of matcha your cafe is using if you are worried about the added sugar and quality of the matcha. This goes for the beetroot powder and medicinal mushroom powders also!
If you want to make your own at home here are some Aussie brands I like:
The Grove - stocks Organic and Fair Trade Beetroot Powder and Medicinal Mushrooms