Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2014

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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IT'S A WASTELAND, the world of nondairy milk in coffeehouses. Scorn for alternative milks results in sloppy barista techniques: Expected to taste and perform like whole milk, soys and almonds have been disappointing the industry for years. Lactose-intolerant customers must resign themselves to some strange flavor profiles—including a bitterness that Nathanael May, coffee educator at Portland Roasting Company likens to "that gross red paper around peanuts"—and some very unappealing drinks. (Five minutes into a soy latte and, really, with all that separation and weirdness, who wants to drink it?) Similar to decaf, the oft-ignored child of the specialty-coffee industry, alternative milks receive little love and even less research in most cafés. If you don't drink nondairy milks, it's easy to dismiss them. The problem with that mindset is that not only are your customers suffering, but your bottom line and your ability to offer a full range of experience to your guests are, too. Devin Chapman, two-time Northwest Barista Champion, United States Barista Championship (USBC) finalist, and two-time Northwest Brewers Cup Champion, says it well: "As baristas, we've got to remember that our job is to sell coffee and make our guests happy, whether or not we believe in the concept of alternative milk." Not only does an growing segment of the coffee-drinking public prefer or require milk substitutes in their milk-based drinks, but as a quality-café owner, it's your responsibility to be excellent in every way—and that includes your choice of dairy alternatives. Sunrich Naturals, an aseptic organic soy available at Restaurant Depot, is another outstanding soy option. I recently posted side-byside pics of a whole-milk cappuccino and a Sunrich cappuccino on my Instagram account with a challenge to label which was which, and it stumped plenty of people. ALMOND MILK Soy has been the leader in alternative dairies, but lately, consumer focus is shifting to almond milk. "Many cafés have been slow to adapt to the almond milk trend because early trials didn't work out so well," says Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Califia Farms. "There are some decently performing soy milks, because manufacturers have had a much longer time to discover what works for the barista. I think almond milk is an opportunity for the trade to evolve a more sophisticated nondairy experience." The idea of almond milk is often more appealing than its execution. Almond milk is an acquired taste, and if taken too hot in steaming develops a very unpleasant bitterness. It also tends to separate in the cup and look like spoiled milk. Even with these liabilities, for people who are tired of soy's distinct attributes, almond milk offers a viable substitute. Standard varieties of almond milk include Almond Breeze, Silk, Blue Diamond, among others. Most commercial almond milks disappoint, but these days, there are two worth testing. Both are new to the mar- "When it comes to a product like [Pacific Natural Foods' Almond Milk], what we're trying to do is not necessarily create something exactly like milk. It's going to stand up to the flavor of coffee, and stay together, which it needs to do, and you can get good texture and pour good latte art with it. As a barista behind the bar trying to making my guests happy, the Pacific Barista Series Almond Milk is a very robust tool to have." Devin Chapman, Barista SOY Ah, the ubiquitous soy, pulled with reluctance from fridges around the world. For years, soy has been the default alternative milk in coffeehouses and out of them. Silk, Blue Diamond, Kirkland—the list of options is long and most shops tend to settle on whatever's cheapest. Or, if they did a little research, whatever's non-GMO. That's all well and good—but there are other options: soys that taste great and handle well. Perhaps the best is courtesy of the obsessive folks at Pacific Natural Foods. Debra Kaminski, director of foodservice marketing at Pacific, says of the Pacific Barista Series Soy, "It's a product that started about 10 years ago with customers expressing a complaint that soy wasn't performing well in coffee beverages. It was breaking, steaming badly, and impossible to pour well." Long story short, the R&D department created a soy that was targeted specifically to resolving these issues—a barista's issues— and because of that, the Barista Series Soy has developed an enthusiastic following this past decade. It holds up strong at high temperatures, provides the elasticity necessary for latte art, and tastes quite nice with espresso. It comes in aseptic (shelf-stable until opened) packaging, and is carried by most U.S. food-service distributors. 74 barista magazine ket—Califia only began selling wholesale in spring of 2013, and the Barista Series Almond Milk just hit the market in January (and in a big way: Peet's Coffee & Tea adopted Pacific's Almond Milk in all of its West Coast coffeehouses). CALIFIA FARMS Named after a warrior queen of Spanish legend, Califia is headed by the dynamic beverage personality of Greg Steltenpohl, founder of Odwalla. Califia was created by the growers of Cuties tangerines, uses only California-grown almonds, and is the only company that uses raw almonds to make almond milk. To put that in perspective, Greg says a typical process for making almond milk is to "remix a cooked paste with water, almost like almond butter. The cooking and pasting processes oxidize the oils to some extent, and the heat application accentuates the almond attributes. We were looking for a much more neutral-tasting milk. "We didn't inherit any large industrial processes," he continues. "Many almond milk products evolve out of a soy system, but we built our plant from scratch and had the ability to rethink the process in an

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