IF THERE was any doubt that many Melburnians take the subject of coffee very seriously, the careful strategies being put into place by one of the city's most respected coffee houses to lessen the blow of an imminent menu change should silence any doubt once and for all.
Market Lane Coffee, a specialty cafe and coffee roaster known for being one of the more hardcore proponents of coffee purity (no skim milk, no decaf, no tea), will add soy milk to the ''no'' list at their original Prahran Market outlet from Monday and they're preparing for the backlash.
''It's not something we've taken lightly,'' says Fleur Studd, co-owner of Market Lane. ''It honestly feels like a bit of a scary step but we have not been serving soy milk at our two other stores and by taking this step we feel we are being true to our values.''
The main reason behind the change is that because Market Lane roast their beans lightly, their coffee has a more acidic nature which can curdle soy milk, making for an unpleasantly textured drink. There's also the fact that soy milk is a highly processed product that cannot be traced back to a single source.
''Our philosophy has always been that everything we serve had to be traceable back to a single estate or a farm,'' says Studd. ''And that's just not possible with soy milk.''
To lessen the blow, the cafe has been handing out letters to soy drinkers explaining the decision and assuring them that they still ''value and love'' them despite the changes. But is there really the potential for enraged soy latte drinkers to storm the place armed with pitchforks and burning crosses?
Andrew Kelly, owner of Small Batch coffee roasters and North Melbourne's Auction Rooms cafe, believes that the decision could spark a backlash.
''We tested dropping skim milk about two years ago,'' he says. ''But there were enough customers who were vocal about our decision for us to bring it back again. I understand where Market Lane is coming from. I think they like being boldly assertive of what they do and don't do and it's a luxury I'd like to embrace myself.''
There is a growing emphasis on milk generally in the serious coffee community. Matt Holden, editor of The Age Good Cafe Guide, says that when he briefs reviewers, he suggests that they drink the coffee black.
''If you want to taste the beans and not the cow then you should drink it without milk,'' he says.
But there's little fear of Melbourne's serious coffee joints ridding themselves of dairy any time soon.
Kris Wood from South Melbourne's Clement says that about 90 per cent of the coffees he sells contain milk - mostly full cream but with soy and skim holding their own - so there's a strong business case for it.
''Besides, there's really good quality milk around now,'' he says.
''Organic, unhomogenised milk that really makes for a lovely drink. All of the good places are now very conscious of the milk that they use. If they're that conscious about the beans they're using, it stands to reason that they're also going to be on the lookout for good quality milk.''