With an estimated 600,000 vegans in the UK* and many more consumers opting to go dairy-free for health reasons, offering your customers dairy-free milk alternatives is essential. But with such a huge variety of choice from soya to hemp, oat to cashew all with their own distinct flavours navigating this maze can be tricky. So to point you in the right direction we have conducted our own experiments with the main three dairy-free players soya, oat and almond (all unsweetened) and our top four milk- loving teas.
Top tip: I found that that lower fat content of dairy-free milk alternatives struggled to balance out the tannins of a stronger English Breakfast, so I recommend reducing your brew time to 3 mins rather than 4.
1. Oat- this was my favourite pairing for English Breakfast, it has the creamiest texture and produced the most balanced cup. Colour is also an important factor for many customers when it comes to English Breakfast- oat produces a nice burnt orange colour, no different from a regular cuppa with milk. My only comment is that oat does have quite a distinctive oaty aftertaste, which isn't to everyone's liking.
2. Soya- This was a close second. It also produced a nice balanced flavour which was a little sweeter than oat, but the oat pipped dairy on texture.
3. Almond- Almond produced the least harmonious tea, struggling to balance the tannins of these stronger black teas.
Milk free alternative: Canton Darjeeling- a rich, fruity black tea that works best black.
This is the tea that I most struggled with; bergamot oil which gives Earl Grey it's distinctive citrussy fragrance was masked to some degree by all three options and produced a slightly weird clash. My philosophy is 'if in doubt go without'- Canton Earl Grey was specially formulated to work black as well as with milk (just reduce brew time from 4 mins to 2). But if your customer really wants a dairy-free alternative, soya would be my choice. The bergamot flavour shone through the most through soya milk and produced the most balanced tea.
Perhaps the biggest tea trend of 2018- the matcha latte has found its way onto most coffee shop menus and with the health benefits of this bright green Japanese wonder-tea many consumers want an equally healthy milk alternative to match.
1. Oat- this produced by far the best texture and body for a matcha latte, really silky smooth. The flavour was also good. My favourite latte used a hybrid milk of 3 parts oat to 1 part coconut, which I am coining the Oat-onut Matcha Latte. This combined the creaminess of the oat milk with the sweet flavour of coconut which is a natural flavour pairing with matcha. I recommend Oatly barista edition for your matcha latte needs.
2. Coming in equal 2nd are almond and soya which both produce nice distinctively flavoured drinks.
Canton Wild Rooibos
Of all our herbals, Canton Wild Rooibos saw the biggest growth in sales during 2018. With its deep red colour and sweet malty flavour that takes milk well it makes a great caffeine- free alternative to English Breakfast. My top picks are oat and soya for Rooibos, though almond also worked nicely.