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Hold the Cream

Milk substitutes for your morning coffee 

Morning routines for many begin with a piping hot cup of coffee to help jump-start the day. Others opt for a fruit smoothie on the go. Although there are dozens of combinations and sweet additions, nondairy milk alternatives can elevate a morning brew or blend in a more healthful and more flavorful way. 

Alternatives such as oat, coconut, almond and soy milk, among others, have become increasingly popular because of the growing interest in plant-based foods. Each provides a distinct flavor profile, but they also offer a way for vegans or those with lactose sensitivities to enjoy their beverages. 

But milk alternatives aren’t reserved for those two groups alone. Even people who loyally add cow’s milk or creamer to their drinks may be pleasantly surprised by trying a new substitute. Despite slight variations in taste, these additions tend to have less fat and fewer calories, yet solid nutritional value. 

Locally, most coffee shops now feature a generous menu with these types of alternatives. In Sturgeon Bay, 5th and Jefferson Coffee House offers almond, coconut, oat and soy options. 

“My favorite is oat milk,” said owner Shawna Young. “It’s mostly requested in lattes, blended beverages, and is even popular in cappuccinos.” 

Oat milk, which consists of oats, water, and canola or rapeseed oil, provides a full-bodied richness that rivals whole dairy milk. It has a creamy taste, and its smooth texture is also easy to blend. 

“The creamiest is oat – the most universal, currently, is oat,” Young said.

Beyond coffee, there are certain other drinks that also play well with oat milk.

“Sweet Matcha and the 5&J Protein Smoothie are other very popular blended drinks that automatically come with oat milk,” Young said. 

Even among current trends, oat milk has maintained popularity, especially for Buttercups Coffee in Egg Harbor. 

“A few years ago, almond was trending,” owner Dave Rozek said, “but the last two years, it has been oat. It makes up over 60% of our sales of milk alternatives.”

Trends aside, many customers still enjoy classics such as coconut, soy and almond milks. Coconut milk, prized for its thick texture, has a high fat content that works well in coffee drinks. Soy reacts to acidity and hotter temperatures and can separate, but it has a rather neutral taste overall. And almond, which can have a nutty flavor that has some bitterness, can produce a silky foam. 

“Almond, for a milk alternative, foams up well,” Rozek said, so that makes almond and oat the best options for espressos. 

Really, the coffee experts said, choosing a milk alternative comes down to preference. 

“I think the biggest benefit is for people with dairy allergies or intolerance,” Young said. “It’s nice to offer a different style drink to someone who is looking to try something outside of dairy.” 

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