Being a (self-diagnosed) lactose intolerant kiwi, millennial working in the specialty coffee industry (who once had a ‘blog’ about hospitality) I have much authority to offer up my opinion when it comes to alternative milk products.
Having worked in the hospitality industries in Wellington, London, Amsterdam and Melbourne, I have certainly seen my fair share of the latest (and too often outrageous) food trends. But it turns out alternative milks are a thing – and it seems that they are here to stay. What started off as a bit of soy milk given as a substitute for actual allergies, has now turned into a core aspect of café culture - giving us industry folk even more motivation to use words like ‘foamability’ and ‘early adopter’ on a daily basis.
Having now opened the door to a whole world of non-dairy possibilities (think chocolate flavoured coconut rice milk) we are now more aware than ever, of what exactly it is we are consuming, and where our products are coming from. The move to non-dairy is an obvious move for an industry which is focused around the environment and sustainability. Ultimately, some alternative milks have less impact on our planet than dairy, and that’s something we certainly can’t argue with. From the origin of coffees and the care for our farmers, through to the London Living Wage and what we do with our leftover coffee grinds, as an industry, we demand traceability and transparency. It’s no wonder someone gave up and just learnt how to milk an oat.
The growing number (and varied range) of alternative milk products appearing on cafe menus are proof that the more the world learns about what we are consuming, the more we want to learn, and as a result, we start paying further attention to every single aspect of what we consume. So, understanding the origin of our milks and the process they go through before hitting the cup is absolutely paramount – we are demanding that they are locally sourced, free-range, organically fed oats with zero traces of fat, sugars and fibre. And of course, us coffee nerds need to know that the protein strands will stabilize the creation of the micro foam when steaming (in order to optimize texture) and that the mouth-feel enhances the experience. Priorities.
As a community and industry, we are in a place where we are all motivated to push each other (and ourselves) to be and do better, until the cows come home. At Ozone, we meet with people every day who are excited and eager to make a difference – not just coffee enthusiasts but hospitality hard-cores, foodies and general coconut yoghurt fans. And as long-standing industry experts, our clients and wider family look to us for advice and ideas on which products to use and why. The ever-growing alternative milk industry is one we are honoured to support and encourage its growth (although I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we get told that our coconut milk consumption is the reason we can’t afford houses).
Having played a key part in raising awareness for sustainability and protecting our planet, let’s not forget, alt milks are actually just delicious. Just try to objectively drink an oat flat white or pour almond milk on your cocoa pops and tell me it’s not a taste sensation - just like a chocolate milkshake... only crunchy.
Don't forget to visit Ozone in the MXLK Bar at Balance Festival this year, to taste their exclusive delicious signature drinks!