Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 104 of 119

ALTERNATIVE PLANT-BASED MILKS have long since taken the specialty-coffee industry by storm. When the business of plant-based milk took its baby steps onto the modern, mainstream palate, fi rst soy and then almond constituted the majority of sales. Now though, new dairy alternatives are entering the market at ever-faster intervals, expanding our options and enlivening cups everywhere. This multitude of new plant-based beverages holds promise for the coffee industry. While regular dairy milk offers just one core taste that's a "nice, light, sweet profi le," as Debra Kaminski, director of foodservice marketing for Oregon-based Pacifi c Foods says, plant- based beverages offer new avenues for exploration "the same way a bartender might compose a drink using complementary ingredients." It's only been a little more than a year since oat milk burst onto the plant-based-milk playing fi eld, delighting new consumers and opening the way for exciting and nuanced beverages. The fi rst major oat milk brand, Oatly, debuted in the United States (after many years serving European markets) in March of 2018 by sending samples of its Barista Edition oat milk to baristas across the country. Pacifi c Foods launched its Barista Series oat milk in 2018, as well. Most recently, Califi a de- buted its Barista Blend of oat milk in early 2019. Still to come, you can expect to see oat milk from big-name brands like Quaker and Danone. Compared to almond milk, oat is kinder to the environment because oats are a winter crop fed mostly by rainfall, whereas almonds are an incredibly water-intensive crop. Nutritionally, oat milk and almond milk are more equally matched. While oat milk has marginally more fat (5 grams versus 3 grams per cup), it has double the protein (3 grams versus 1.5 grams) and more fi ber (2 grams versus 0 grams), but far more carbohydrates (16 grams versus 1.5 grams). Yet, both almond and oat milk lag signifi cantly in protein content: Where dairy milk typically boasts 8 grams of protein per cup, almond milk has less than half that, and oat less than two thirds. As Jim Richards, CEO of Milkadamia, says, "Innovation is coming out of plant-based … dairy is dairy is dairy, it hasn't ever changed and I guess there's very little they can do to make it change, whereas plant-based can be basically any plant and there's a lot of exciting new innovation." Advancements in plant-based beverages are driving an industry focused on the "recognition that we can't be individually well in a planet that's not well," he says. As consumers recognize the need for reducing animal products in their diets and increasing plant-based consumption, the vari- ety of dairy, as well as meat, alternatives will continue to expand. The buzzwords for 2019 are "banana" and "fl ax." Banana milk, a relative newcomer to the scene, is available in commercial brands and can also be made at home. Bananas are extremely cheap, and the ease of extracting the milk yourself—no straining or soaking required— makes banana milk a more egalitarian plant-based beverage than many of the more expensive and labor-intensive options. Health-wise, bananas are high in potassium and other nutrients and have plenty of fi ber, which, because the milk isn't strained, is found is greater quanti- ties than in other plant-based milks. However, environmentally and socially, bananas are a less-than- ideal product. Bananas are largely grown in monocultures where every banana plant has exactly the same genes, making the entire crop more vulnerable to blights and necessitating the use of pesticides and fertilizers in greater amounts. Historically, banana plantations in Latin American countries caused massive social disorder. In the 20th century, the United Fruit Company controlled most banana plan- tations and, in doing so, supported repressive regimes, engineered coup-d'états, assassinations, and more. (For more information on the United Fruit Company, I recommend Bananas by Peter Chapman.) Modern-day human' rights issues on banana plantations are not much better. The use of pesticides on farms has been documented as a work- er-health violation, since those harvesting the bananas are often out in the fi eld without proper protection while the pesticides are being sprayed, leading to higher instances of disease and sickness among banana-farm workers. Banana milk is currently popular in homemade ice cream, pancakes, oatmeal, and more. Because of its intense banana taste, it may be di- visive with baristas and coffee consumers. While some customers may fi nd the added banana taste a unique and pleasant experience in their coffee, others will most likely fi nd that the banana fl avor obscures the natural taste of a delicious cup of coffee. Yet, banana milk is making some inroads in specialty coffee. Several recent articles on food web- sites boast that banana milk is the "best nondairy creamer" precisely because of the banana fl avor. While banana milk has been on the scene for a few years, it hasn't quite taken off yet. We predict this year will be the year it does. A café in Brooklyn, J + B Design Café, made waves in the foodie scene by offering a drink that combined cold brew with simple syrup and banana milk. As Cooking Light claims in a 2016 article, "The creamy banana milk adds a slightly thicker texture to the coffee and a sweet fl avor that balances nicely against the acidity." Unlike other plant-based beverages, banana milk doesn't seem to separate and clump due to coffee's acidity, but remains creamy and smooth, like dairy. Flax milk has been around for several years, but its great nutri- tional advantages may be catapulting it to the top of the on-trend list this year. With a mother lode of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (the great-for-you stuff found in fi sh oil) and a comparable amount of protein to soy (about 5 to 7 grams per cup), and fi ber to boot, fl ax milk is one of the most nutrient-rich of the current plant-milk alternatives. Flax seeds have been around since the dawn of civilization when they were cultivated for their fi bers to be turned into linen and used for fabrics and clothing. They were also the oldest crop introduced into the Americas for the use of making cloth. In more recent history, fl ax seeds' nutritional value has been recognized by health gurus and scientists alike. In the cup, fl ax milk is relatively mild, which can work well in coffee when the goal is to showcase the fl avor of the coffee itself. Flax milk is known for its slightly sweet, nutty fl avor, with a toasty note not as present in almond milk. Given the low water usage in production and relative environmental friendliness of fl ax, fl ax milk is a good choice both for your own health and for that of the environment. Soy and almond milk have reigned for a long time, but the exponen- tial popularity of oat just goes to show how quickly the coffee communi- ty as well as consumers will embrace something new. We're predicting that this year, banana milk and fl ax milk will become bigger on the plant-milk scene, though oat and almond will hold fast as favorites. —Victoria Brown What's Next in Plant-Based Beverages? 105

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