I have been considering opening a coffee shop, but now, as a new vegan, I know I would not be okay with serving drinks with cow milk.  So I have been trying every other kind of "milk," not actually steaming them but drinking them straight, and I can barely stand most of them.  It is seriously discouraging. 

 

Is anyone out there having success with their vegan offerings?  Not just, eh, it's okay, but wow, that's so good I don't even miss the milk!  Or if you know any place that does vegan really well, I would love to hear about it.  I had a soy mocha at Starbucks and I was so disgusted I wanted to cry. 

If there's anyone out there..barista, shop owner, coffee drinker...who can tell me about successful drinks or successful shops, I would appreciate it.  Ideally I'd like to find a shop or a barista to learn from.

 

Thanks so much!

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We have been offering several varieties of milk alternatives with varying success. Customers have a choice between Soy, Almond, and Rice, I am also working on being able to offer Hemp, Hazelnut and Oat milk.  There are many producers of these alternatives and some of them are much better than others. Typically, making a batch of whatever "Mylk" you choose can yield better qualitative results than many commercial products as well as being cheaper per beverage. However, there are several factors that must be kept in mind when undertaking this sort of commercial production including equipment (commercial blenders, more refrigeration, storage containers, etc.), consistency of production, labour, safe storage (can't beat tetrapaks) and simply having another thing to worry about.

 

Also, a major factor to consider is that steaming animal milk produces considerably different results than steaming seed milk. The lack of fats as well as certain sugars will not produce the characteristic texture and flavours of animal milks. There are several products out that are designed for steaming (Pacific Foods Soy Barista series and So Nice Barista) that you should look closely at because they produce better results than standard soy beverages. However, just like Vegan cheese, it might look and taste like cow cheese, but everyone could tell the difference. And that is very important to realize! While a hemp milk cappuccino might taste incredible with the right recipe and execution, anyone who doesn't drink through a straw will immediately tell the difference, and may not like it as much as with cows milk.

 

A serious question you will have to face is whether you are not serving cow's milk because customers don't want it, or because you don't want it. I completely understand the ethical, environmental and political rational behind Veganism and generally agree with it. However, my customers may not and if you are not willing to provide what the market wants, they will take their money elsewhere. Since I do not have the market (ie. significant population of customers) to have a 100% vegan cafe, I offer dairy (both organic and non) as well as a variety of non-dairy alternatives so I do not alienate anyone. To tell you the truth, there is not a single vegan customer who resents me for also selling animal milk. They are too happy that they finally have a place to get an awesome Almond milk Macchiato.

 

i agree with troy.  on another note, i was vegan for 6 years...what made me loose the lifestyle was the fact that i couldnt taste any drinks i was creating as a barista unless it was made with a milk alternative.  it changed my world when i started to drink cappuccinos made with cows milk... not downing veganism, obviously, but i think it would be a better choice to still include cows milk on your menu at least on an extremely miniscule level to at least cater to those certain customers who ask.  every product you make at your potential shop, you want to carry pride in it...a latte made with cows milk or a latte made with almond milk, in the end should have the same end result-please the customer, satisfy the barista and excentuate your espresso. i love the thought and concern you're putting into this matter and i wish you the best of luck!!!!

i've gotten the best results with refrigerated blue diamond unsweetened plain almond milk. i actually would contend that tetrapaks are a bad idea -it seems that the shelf stable alternative milks don't texture nearly as well. soy and coconut do well, in my experience, while rice, oat, and hemp do not. the latter three seem thin and cardboardy.

 

as far as serving animal milk, just see what your customer base will support. you might have to serve it to survive financially, you might not. i just drink black pourovers and presses and espresso mostly, it's no skin off my back :P

Brit, your comment "..please the customer, satisfy the barista and excentuate your espresso" is absolutely true. If there is pride for the product product sold, the product will sell itself. Just as the establishment will be seen as something special. Having said that, Jennifer, there is nothing more important than being proud and fully supportive of the product/service you are offering the public. If you cannot make concession to include animal milks in your menu, there will always be people in your community who will support you. Hopefully enough to pay your bills.

Jared, I recognise why you  believe that tetrapaks are bad idea, the quality of the product do not necessarily justify the convenience and shelf-stability.  I was shocked that I have never tried coconut milk, especially since they make a fantastic creme brulee...yum.

i just find the ultra pasteurization makes it hard to texture. i've used both and the refrigerated blue diamond comes out so much better.

Thanks so much for the responses. I appreciate them all.  I hear what you're saying about providing what the market wants, but there is just no way I can support the dairy industry.  I do believe business-wise it could be very successful in the right city (Portland, SF, maybe SD) so I am only looking at those places at the moment.  Vegan joints in the right cities become super popular because there are so few of them, so they capture practically the entire market and acquire a lot of devotees (granted that the quality is there!) 

@Jared...Can you tell me what brands of soy and coconut you like? And is plain unsweetened the way to go, or do you ever try vanilla? 

 

Thanks guys! 

http://www.turtlemountain.com/products/coconut_milk_beverage.html (unsweetened) for coconut, although it doesn't sell well. and i use silk organic unsweetened plain soy milk. i try to avoid the flavored ones - they screw with my espresso too much.

 

Jennifer, I can't name any particular shops or baristas that specialize or do a great job with vegan coffee drinks. I'm a glass-half-full-kind-o-gal, however, I must say, you can't expect an apple to be anything other than an apple, and you can't expect a latte, to be anything other than a latte. Meaning, if you're not using milk, it's not going to taste like milk. You know? Milk contains fats and sugars, and by steaming the milk, it opens up these fats and sugars so as to change them and meld them together. Impossible to do with rice or hemp milk. 

 

What inspired you to want to open a coffee shop?

also, just a thought, why not try and source some local cow-friendly dairy? that way you could eliminate any ethic treatment concerns and build a relationship with the people you purchase milk from, even if you don't drink it yourself.

@Katie Jo..Yeah, I hear  ya. I don't like vegan things pretending to be their non-vegan counterparts, like fake meats (ugh).  But I'm still optimistic that you can make something delicious with coffee and something other than cow milk.  I prefer coffee black but I know that's not gonna fly in a shop!  What inspired me to open a coffee shop....well, a serious love of coffee, primarily, that led me to spend a year on coffee farms, which then really got me hooked. 

 

@Jared...Hmmm, that may be possible, and I'm not ruling it out, but it would be very difficult to ensure that the cows are being treated well and not being overworked and overburdened with the stress of forced pregnancies. I think it would be very hard to find such a farm in the first place!  But I like the idea.

i mean, you're passionate about cows being treated ethically. chances are someone who's actually a dairy farmer is also! these guys near me do a good job, from what i hear - http://www.happycowcreamery.com/ - they're just expensive and i can't get them where i live. maybe there's someplace in cali.

The same areas that you speak of for opening your shop are precisely the areas that you need to be looking in to find great dairy farms.  If you dig in, you'll certainly find some (being from what feels like the vegan capital of the world- PDX)

 

-bry

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