Even before I became vegan, I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance and from the age of 14 (which was almost 20 years ago now), I had to stop drinking “regular” milk. Back then the only available substitute was soy milk, and even that was quite hard to find. Since then non-dairy milk has become very much wide spread, and there are numerous options, not only in the supermarket, but in coffee shops as well. So with so many options, how do you choose?
Before I moved from Tel-Aviv to New York, I used to drink only soy milk with my coffee. That was the only milk you could find in most cafes. I bought hazelnut milk for my morning cereal, as it is slightly sweet and added a nice kick to my breakfasts. When I moved to New York I discovered almond milk, which was pretty much the most common plant based milk there and I liked it much better than soy milk, which has a heaviness to it.
While almond milk has a sweetish quality to it, which makes it quite tasty in your coffee, almond milk is a very skinny milk. It’s quite hard for baristas to work with, so if you get some late art you should really be siked and there’s also usually very little foam. Sometimes it makes your coffee a tad too runny. However, Since most third wave coffee I’ve tasted in the states tended to be acidic, it evened it out quite nicely.
Not long after I left New York I visited Amsterdam. In Amsterdam the basic milk substitute was oat milk. I tried it for the very first time. Though I found that idea weird, I discovered quite quickly that oat milk had its advantages. The first one being the fact that its consistency is very similar to “normal” milk. It’s much thicker than almond milk, without being too thick and heavy like soy milk. Oat milk is also quite neutral in its taste and it’s definitely not sweet like almond milk. As most third wave European coffee is more earthy and bitter (as opposed to acidic) it compliments it very well.
When I returned to Tel-Aviv almond milk became a thing, and I started drinking my coffee with almond milk. It worked well because the coffee in Israel is quite acidic as well. And also because the other option was soy milk, which in my opinion is less preferable.
In the past year I have been living in the UK, where oat milk is the standard. It also works very well with the local brews, and hence that is now the milk of my choice. As I am now visiting Israel again and since oat milk became quite popular here, I tried having my coffee with oat milk, when it’s available. However. I have discovered that while oat milk works with some brews really well, it’s not as good with the acidic flavors some third wave coffees in Israel have. This led me to the conclusion that oat milk works best with earthy, slightly bitter coffee, while almond milk works better with sour coffee.
Coconut milk is another pretty popular substitute, which you might be offered in the sates or the UK. I find it a little runny, and it also has a very distinct taste, which is often unpleasant to me. Sometimes the aftertaste is actually even worse. Hence, unless you are doing a vegan keto diet, this is probably my least recommend plant based milk.
Let me know which plant based milk you prefer!