The Art of Coffee |March 11, 2024

Attention Coffee Lovers: The War Between Milk And Mylk (milk Alternatives)?

Last year while visiting Portland Oregon, the local Stumptown Café by my hotel had a sign on the counter. “Unless otherwise requested the default Mylk for all coffee drinks will be Oat Mylk” That was my first introduction to a secret war between Milk (the juice of the cow) and Mylk (a derived liquid product from oat, almond, soy, macadamia, coconut, cashew, rice or hazelnut.)

When I ordered my drink, I had to say, “I’d like a cappuccino with cow’s milk.” (Turns out the proper term was Dairy Milk) If the barista felt disdain, they didn’t show it, but the lady next to me flashed me a look. In that look, I could see that somehow, I had missed the politically correct boat of Milk choice. I wanted to know why. What is the health, or humanitarian reason that one would choose Mylk vs Milk?

I dug in. It turns out that ethically and environmentally, there are many reasons one might choose to forego the moo juice. Additionally, some people have health issues related to milk allergies and lactose intolerance.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, rising demand for milk globally can impact greenhouse gases, and water tables if waste is poorly managed, and can intrude upon prairies, wetlands, and forests. Airborne emissions of ammonia have been known to disrupt natural habitats and can create unpleasant conditions for humans nearby.

Large water use, soil and land erosion through overgrazing, as well as poor living conditions for the animals due to overcrowding and large herd management practices all add to the problem.

I can see that if you were a proponent of a healthy and sustainable environment this might cause you alarm. Are there sustainable Milk producers? It turns out there are. Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, Non GMO Project, Shop with Your Heart are all certifications that dairies can qualify for if they follow sustainable practices.

Now short of getting your own cow and taking a little milk from time to time, are there any ethical choices on the supermarket shelf? Look for (Certified Humane) Hart Dairy, Organic Pastures Dairy Company, and others you can find online, but at the moment they are still the exception and not the rule.

If you were a café and believed that dairy milk is the best tasting, most nutritious, most compatible addition to a coffee drink then perhaps you could source a better milk. The question is, how much more would that be per cup of coffee served? How many customers are willing to pay? What are the alternatives?

The World of Mylk

One thing long-time baristas will tell you is that real milk is neutral, with such a good dose of fat that it really helps to reveal coffee flavors rather than change them. Depending on the mylk you choose, each may have its own flavor profile causing the coffee to taste completely different.

Additionally, all “cruelty-free”, and “plant-based” mylk products are not created equally.

Remember that essentially you are taking nut fragments and blending them at high speed to create a mylky substance. Many mylks add vegetable oils, sugars, and other chemical stabilizers to keep the mylk from separating.

Sold proudly as humane, and healthy, plant-based, and vegan, we recommend you look deeply into your mylk products to verify the reality of the situation. As with everything, there are pluses and minuses to both.

Let’s take a look at a few:

Almond Mylk
How It’s Made 
Pro: Smooth creamy texture, soft flavors. Uses include: coffee, cereal, baking
Con: Almond farms are huge, use massive amounts of water, and have come under scrutiny for damaging bee populations and for very few actual almonds (under 2%) in their mylk.

Coconut Mylk
How It’s Made
Pro: Smooth, distinct taste. Uses include: coffee, smoothies, baking.
Con: There have been numerous complaints against coconut farms for harsh working conditions.

Soy Mylk
How It’s Made
Pro: Smooth, some unique nutrients. Uses include: coffee, baking, milk substitute
Con: Soy farming is environmentally harsh on the land, and the industry has come under fire for disrupting the local eco-systems.

Oat Mylk
How It’s Made 
Pro: Creamy texture, soft flavor. Uses include: ice cream, yogurt, coffee drinks
Oat mylk is considered low impact on water and land use.
Con: Many Oat products that start out healthy have a lot of additives so please read the label carefully.

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to you choosing the milk or mylk that sits well with your wallet, morals, and palate. There is good and bad in everything, and no two people are going to see it in the exact same way.

Taste it, read about it, look into it when you have a free moment, google local suppliers, and then do what you need to do.

One thought on “Attention Coffee Lovers: The War between Milk and Mylk (Milk Alternatives)?

  1. Glenn Lelko says:

    Excellent article Matt! Very well written and informative. I’m more like you and prefer the “real thing”. My preference is half and half, but whole milk is acceptable. I’ve had the alternatives including almond, coconut, and oat mylk. These are OK but I don’t think we need to stop drinking cow’s milk to save the planet. It was interesting to read the “cons” with the alternative mylks. Also, this is the first I’ve heard the term mylk. Thank you!

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