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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Well I wish the title of dairy farmer actually implied that the person cares about cows, or that a chicken farmer cares about chickens.  I think people in these industries are just numb most of the time.  Anyhoo, thanks for carrying on with me :)
i wish the title of barista meant the person actually cared about coffee.

I believe that you are lumping all dairy farmers into the same (negative) group.

My father-in-law and most of his brothers (now the next generation of my cousins) are/were dairy farmers. From personal observation over many years, I don't think I ever saw someone who was more interested, careing and concerned with animals then my father-in-law. (He has since passed on)

It requires a true passion to sit up all night with a sick animal to make sure they don't just lie down and die (literally).

I have seen him help deliver a calf when there was a breech birth (head to the rear, rather than coming out first). This requires both knowledge and dedication. (I'll leave the detailed visuals to your imagination) .


I think you will find that most, if not all, smaller, family owned dairy farms are operated by caring dedicated farmers. I can't speak about chickens, other than my local egg farmers (backyard size operations) seem to care about their chickens as well.


Ron, the Country Guy


For the last three years I have been some shade of vegan or vegetarian. I've also been a barista in the Pacific Northwest for six years, and have met every flavor of vegan you can imagine.

Every cup of coffee at Starbucks brings me to tears... The char, the burn, the overwhelming sugar. Bleh! I've found it's best to stay away.

If you are a regular dairy consumer, it's pretty doubtful that you will find a substitute milk to suite your palate.... It's definitely an aquired taste. Your staples for appeasing those with alternative diets will be soy milk and at least one other alternative milk (soy allergies are becoming more common now, as well as a more general sense of unease towards the estrogen levels in soy milk...) Rice is usually a good option, but hazelnut milk and almond milk are also really tasty. They're both VERY thin and don't do great with espresso, though.

The brand Silk creates soymilk specifically to be used with espresso. It's much denser than other brands of soy milk and you can actually do latte art with Silk, which I have found to be next to impossible with other brands, but it's also more costly. I've found that 1/2 rice milk, and 1/2 bottom-shelf soy milk will steam pretty decently.

A non-coffee specialty drink that I LOVE, that was extremely popular at a shop I worked at was hazelnut milk with mate.

I also like to use unsweetened baking chocolate in flavored mochas when I use an alternative milk. The chocolate tends to be creamier and thicker and gives the drink a nice full body. For instance, for a double tall rice milk mocha, I would use about 3/4 tbs of a powdered baking chocolate, 1 oz (2 pumps) of whatever flavor (almond is my fav. thesedays) and emulsify that in a separate pitcher before pulling my shots and steaming my milk.


Hopefully some of that is helpful:)


Sounds like an interesting business concept.  The unique marketing angle might make up for any loss due to the non-traditional approach.


It would definitely be worth having some good discussions with vegan restaurant owners.  Try to get a sense for what the size of your target market actually is and work from there.


One thought... Jared's comment hits a good point - a well made espresso or cup of black coffee are vegan products, no?  Make sure that, in addition to good milk-alternatives, you create a destination for excellent coffee. I don't drink much milk, but do drink lots of good black coffee.  Milk is irrelevant to me as a coffee consumer.

It's hard enough to try and make money retailing coffee drinks. It's a stupid business that banks hate because the failure rate is so high and the profit margins so small.  To eliminate an entire (and huge) group of potential customers by not offering cow milk would seem suicidal (or at least masochistic martyrdom).

As others have said, there are dairy farmers out there who treat their cows extremely well. It would be worth your time and energy to find them. Honestly can't see how you'd make the business fly otherwise, unless you were a vegan bakery/sandwich shop first, coffeehouse second, which would likely not be as satisfying given your love of coffee.


Jared, I gotta meet you one of these days, that just made my Sulawesi come out my nose.

Jared Rutledge said:

i wish the title of barista meant the person actually cared about coffee.

Hi Jennifer,

You could try organic milk, and buy it from a small, local (or as local as you can get) farm. Go and see them and take a look at how the cows are treated. Anywhere that has nothing to hide will be pleased to help. Like Ron said, not all dairy farmers are bad people. Small farmers actually do care about their animals.



At Backspace here in Portland we offer Pacific soy and rice and a hemp milk from Living Harvest.


The hemp foams nicely and can pour rosettes like the soy, but at times has a taste that conflicts with espresso...


We experimented with hazelnut milk, but found the emulsion breaking too easily and a kinda burnt flavor if steamed hotter than 130.

Gosh, I'm starting to wonder if I'm a cynic!  Nah, I think I'm just uber-sensitive to animals.  If all these "happy cow" places are actually trying to make any money, I have to assume they are artificially impregnating their cows to get more milk out of them.  Not natural OR kind to the cow.  BUT I will go take a look around, just cause I'm curious like that!

Thanks for the conversation everyone

@Rich Yes, it will also be a bakery-my vegan baking skills are coming along quite well :)

Hi Jennifer,


Our shop offers Soy (regular not unsweetened or vanilla) and Almond Milk as non-dairy alternatives. The Almond milk goes over really well. Try steaming them and see what you like in the drinks.


Cheers Rob

Another alternative would be to encouraged vegan customers to try Americano, black coffee, espresso, cubanos or any other non milk coffee. If you got those tasting delicious the vegan folk may stop adding any milks at all.

Unrelated to coffee, however, very related to vegan.


My boyfriend found a recipe for Chocolate Vegan Mousse. So simple. And very tasty.


>Avacados (I bet you can find those in San Diego, ;-)  )

>Cocoa powder (I love carob, and bet it would be a great additive)

>Vanilla Extract

>A little salt


Blend and whip all ingredients into a mousse-like texture. SO great with strawberries!

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