Coffee used to be something we could depend on. It was straightforward, untouched.
You liked it black or you liked it with milk. Then, almost without any of us fully noticing, milk- and therefore coffee—changed on us. We now have to choose amongst almond, cashew, hemp, and oat to name but a few. And then there’s the old throwback of soy milk, but does anyone even do that anymore? It’s no longer 2001, and thank god for that.
Needless to say, it’s overwhelming. What is a sustainably minded, environmentally sound coffee lover to do in this life? Do you love a good dairy, but feel for the hormone-doped cows? Did you then move onto almond milk but feel tremendous guilt for the absurd amount of water used to make that ish? Not quite hippie enough for that hemp lifestyle? Well, we can’t make the decision for you, but we can take you on a journey that attempts to answer that new age question, what the eff is in my latte?
While this creamy beverage tastes equally as good in your smoothie or cereal as it does in your morning latte, it takes a ridiculous amount of resources to make one almond- let alone an entire bottle of almond milk. On the bright side, however, it’s free of cholesterol and saturated fat, along with being naturally lactose free. And it’s hit the big time; baristas are adept at using this substitute in lattes. // Find it at: Peet’s, Boba Guys, Saint Frank, and most other places with wifi. Our favorite brands: Elmhurst, Califia, Malk, Pop & Bottle.
No pun intended, people have gone nuts for coconut-derived ingredients in the past five years. Coconut oil has taken on the role of cure-all for dry hair, unbalanced skin, toothpaste, cooking oil, suntan lotion- we could go on. And as for coconut milk, some say it has a more pleasing taste than its almond, hemp, and cashew counterparts. Watch out for the sugar, though; many brands market their product for its health benefits while hoping you bypass the astronomical sugar content. // Find it at: Contraband and Philz. Our favorite brands: Native Forest, Thrive.
If it’s a nut, they’re going to milk it for all it’s worth. Literally. Pros of this option are its low sugar and calorie count, as well as the fact that it packs a punch of tryptophan, a mood-boosting hormone. The monounsaturated fats in cashew milk have also been known to brighten your skin with a healthy glow. Sound magical? Give it a go. // Find it at: few coffee shops offer this; you may have to hunt a bit. Our favorite brands: Forager.
The ups: no soy, no gluten, sugar-free, and devoid of cholesterol. Hemp milk also contains omega-3 fatty acids that curb the risk of health issues like heart disease, arthritis, and dementia. Your body can’t produce these on its own, so you’ve got to get them somewhere. Hemp milk just may be that go-to, though many drinkers can’t quite get down with its grassy, nutty flavor. // Our favorite brands: Tempt. Find it at: The Mill, Antigua Coffee Shop, STEEP.
You didn’t know you needed this. With an earthy, oaty taste, this milk is a solid substitute to nut-milks, and not quite as pungent as hemp milk. At first difficult to find, it’s hitting the coffee scene in a big way these days. The “NY Times” explained why in a recent article. // Our favorite brands: Oatly (it’s one of the only, and absolutely the best). Find it at: La Columbe, Blue Bottle, Boba Guys.
Let us leave you to ponder with this this thought: most of us are deeply attached to our coffee. And if we’re drinking it every day (multiple times), it makes sense for us to make smart choices. But moral of the story: don’t bet on your milk substitute being the keystone of your health plan. No nut, plant, or strained oat can shoulder that load.
Isabella Welch is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in history. Her writing has been featured in history journals, travel blogs, arts & culture magazines, and more. Director of Editorial & Creative Development at Bob Cut Mag, lover of stories and tinto de verano, she’s usually found wandering the Headlands.