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  • Lou Webster

Cow or Plant?


I am sure many of you have decided to use this January, and the start of the new decade, to try and do something good for ourselves and the planet. I have dived into Dry January and really enjoying the not drinking thing. I hope to continue beyond January (How I will feel come springtime is a different matter. There is nothing I enjoy more than drinking a pint outside in the springtime sunshine). Our household is also consciously eating a mainly vegetarian diet. It is not exclusively any particular diet; vegetarian, flexitarian, pescatarian or even Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian... just, we are consciously eating less meat. I admire those who have started a mainly vegan diet, as they are doing what I cannot.

When it comes to dairy milk alternatives in the coffee world we are spoiled for choice. Some definitely work better than others, both in terms of flavour, texture and pouring ability. With our desire to drink and eat less dairy, we need to ensure our goals and desires to do good are matching up to our buying habits. There is a hell of a lot of information out there, which prove and disprove both arguments (for and against dairy milk), so it's hard to get it right. The most important thing here is to be kind to each other's choice and to acknowledge that we may have got it wrong when new scientific evidence is published and public opinions change.


There is no getting away from it. Our dairy farming practices, globally, are having a significant negative impact on the environment. What mass-farming practices don't? Animal or plant based. Thankfully in the UK, we have far better farming conditions for cows than America, but there is no escaping the huge environment toll of feeding and watering cows. Add into the mix the land needed to graze and milk the cows, the methane emissions, and the animal welfare and ethical issues associated with large scale dairy farming, then the case is certainly stacked against using milk from our big-eyed friends.


That being said, there are certainly some fantastic small-scale dairy farms that are producing some fantastic milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir. These farms put the welfare of their cattle at the forefront of their business model and the results are fantastic.

The UK Coffee Scene has seen a significant amount of coffee shops using these types of dairy farms. Estate Dairy, Northiam Dairy and Brades Farm are a few examples that are all well positioned in different parts of the country to be able to provide their local cafes with exceptional quality milk.

When it comes to non-dairy milks, cafes and coffee shops need to offer customers some high-quality options - but they needn't go overboard. Having one nut and one plant-based option available in my opinion is enough. The standard offer in most cafes in the UK seems to be Almond, Oat and Soya.

There are a lot on discussions about the most sustainable non-dairy option, but I think the best place to start is to think about where your alternative comes from? Oats can be grown here in Europe, so it makes sense to drink oat milk over almond, as most almonds are grown in California or parts of Australia. Soya has a bad rep these days and considering what is happening to the Amazon Rainforest and beyond, you can understand why. There are also countless pseudo-scientific articles, without solid research, saying soya is bad for our health. It’s all a bit of a minefield.




Here's my advice for cafes...

1. Ensure you are using an independent, local dairy farm, that prioritises animal welfare and quality over price. Build the small increase of costs into your overall pricing strategy. Your coffees will look and taste beautiful.

2. Pick at least one nut-based and plant-based alternative to cater for your customers. Do your research into what is the most sustainable, focusing on all-natural ingredients and low sugar content. To be able to pour latte art, you will need to look at barista specific products. Rude Health, Oatly and Minor Figures are firm favourites in the UK. Look at Rebel Kitchen too. They focus on high quality ingredients that compliment coffee, but it is more expensive.

3. If you can, make your own nut-milks. You will have greater control over where the produce comes from (almonds from Spain or Italy over America for example). Making your own will also give you a higher overall % of nut content. Most off the shelf nut milks contain only 2%.

4. Always have fantastic brewed coffees available at all times. Be it batch brew or hand-brews. Only a handful of customers add milk to filter coffee, as it is already naturally beautiful and sweet.

5. Ensure all baristas are using the correct amount of milk for each beverage to minimise waste. Make this part of their training. Your profits will go up and you will be saving the planet at the same time.


6. If you can, invest in suitable bar-top milk dispensing equipment. There are several options out there offering solutions for cafes. They offer correct dosing at the same time as improving workflow and speed of service. Having one will also ensure your plastic waste reduces, as the milk needs to be in a gallon pergal - so its a win win.

There is so much choice out there and it’s important to make the correct choice for your business and your budget. If you are looking for some advice on how to ensure you make the right choices, please get in touch to see how The Coffee Consultancy can help.


Happy brewing.



#coffee #alternativemilks #vegan #veganuary #sustainabilty #cafes #coffeeshops #baristas #dairy #nondairy #rudehealth #minorfigures #oatly #rebelkitchen #thecoffeeconsultancy #estatedairy #northiamdairy #bradesfarm #startups


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