Many of us take our coffee drinking very seriously – which can make switching from dairy milk to nut milk all the more complicated. If you are hoping to narrow down which nut milk will give your coffee your ideal taste and texture – keep reading.
Which nut milk will taste best in your coffee? The short answer is that everyone has different coffee preferences, and so it is a matter of trial and error. However, it does not hurt to start your trial process on the basis of popular opinion mixed with an informed consumer mindset.
In a consumer survey conducted in 2019, Allegra World Coffee Portal (“the leading information portal for the coffee industry”) found that almond milk is the second most popular plant-based milk used in coffee (after soy). According to experienced international coffee roasters Lincoln & York, almond milk is a good fit for those who like their milk a bit more on the watery side with a slightly nutty flavor.
According to Health Line, the benefits of including almond milk in your coffee include low calories, a boost of vitamin E, and a small intake of calcium. Of course, this will depend on the brand you choose.
There are pros and cons to consuming almond milk, according to The Guardian. While almond trees occupy less farmland than alternative dairy-milk-related crops, they require the most water out of any of the dairy alternatives. The article states that “nearly 70% of commercial bees in the US are drafted every spring to pollinate almonds”, of which approximately one-third will die by the end of the season. If you want to support sustainable practices, you might want to avoid this milk.
Allegra found coconut milk to be the third most popular milk-alternative with coffee, as voted by consumers. Lincoln & York note that this one makes it to the top three due to its creaminess, foaminess, and natural sweetness.
In BBC GoodFood, nutritionist Jo Lewin notes that coconut flesh is “highly nutritious” and includes an array of B vitamins, minerals, and potentially good saturated fatty acids such as lauric acid, which “may help protect the body from infections and viruses.”
While coconut milk’s high demand has, in many cases, led to worker exploitation, Trade Aid Importers Ltd.’s Development Manager Michelia Miles says that there are ways to avoid supporting unethical practices:
“Our advice to consumers considering the best brand to support is to check out their website first and understand the values and principles of the brand and to confirm if these are applied across their product range. If the website does not tell you then it is unlikely to be applied as part of their work.”
“In the case of Trade Aid’s coconut milk, the same criteria apply to our purchasing as for all our products: which includes aspects such as fair wages, non-discrimination, environmental protection, and participative structures including opportunities for producer’s voice.”
If you would like to have a go at making your own coconut milk, take a look at this guide to making coconut milk.
Cashew nut milk
Cashew milk scored pretty low on Allegra’s consumer popularity survey. According to Lincoln & York, this could be due to the milk’s high price tag. The coffee experts do note that, for those who love its natural sweetness and creaminess, it could be worth it.
Depending on whether your cashew milk is homemade or store-bought, Healthline states that cashew milk can be a source of good fats, protein, and magnesium. You can attempt to do it yourself with this recipe on How to Make Cashew Milk.
According to Insider, “cashew milk uses much less water during production” (in comparison to dairy milk). However, as explained in this video by Al Jazeera, de-shelling cashews can be physically damaging and low-paying work. It is important to look into the ethics of a brand before buying this one.
Hazelnut milk has not made it onto the list of most popular milk to drink with your coffee, and Chatelaine’s plant-based coffee taste test offers some clear pointers as to why. A bitter taste and curdling were among the reasons to avoid adding this milk to your coffee.
Do not rule hazelnut milk out completely. Outside of your cup of coffee, there are plenty of benefits to this milk. Men’s Journal points out that it is low in calories and offers a decent dose of B vitamins, vitamin E, folic acid, and omega 3s. Be sure to check the carton to ensure that this applies to the brand you are using. There is also the option of making hazelnut milk yourself. If you would like to give it a try, check out How to Make Homemade Hazelnut Milk.
Labeling Hazelnut milk a “rising star”, The Guardian cheerfully advises that Hazelnuts are bee-friendly due to their wind pollination and are less of a strain on resources as they grow in naturally-moist regions. The hazelnut business is not so kind to humans. In an interview with the BBC, hazelnut harvester Mehmet Kelekci states: “When we say ‘hazelnut’, in my understanding it means misery: tough work, being a worker”. The article goes on to explain that in Turkey, which supplies 70% of the world’s hazelnuts, child labor and low pay are typical findings within the industry.
The bottom line
When selecting nut milk for your coffee, think about the type of flavor and consistency you would like – but also check the label. The “Nutritional Information” on the label should tell you about the health benefits of the milk. If the milk is Fair Trade, this will usually be clearly marked on the packaging.