On-trend Brisbane cafes offer nut, oat and rice milk coffees

An almond milk coffee at The Balfour Kitchen.
An almond milk coffee at The Balfour Kitchen. Photo: Supplied

Milk has come a long way from udder to cup, with a new health-conscious generation ditching the cow and going nuts over beans, grains and, well, nuts.

No longer just the domain of the health food shop, an array of milk alternatives are now gracing cafe menus around Brisbane.

Paddington institution Fundies Cafe specialises in health foods and makes coffee with soy, coconut, almond, oat and rice milks, as well as organic full- and low-fat cow's milk.

Manager Kim Schillitoe said soy, almond and coconut were the most popular non-dairy milks because, unlike rice milk, they are creamy.

"I think in coffee people really enjoy the texture and taste of soy, almond and coconut milks. Rice milk can tend to be a bit watery," she said.

Pourboy Espresso are pouring soy and lactose-free coffees.
Pourboy Espresso are pouring soy and lactose-free coffees. 

Schillitoe said the various milks do change the taste of the coffee, but for many that is the attraction.

She said the health benefits of non-dairy milks is often the main reason for making the switch.

"People are becoming more and more aware of what's available out there so they're experimenting with different things," she said.

"Different milks are becoming a lot more accessible and, as a result, a lot more popular."

The Balfour Kitchen, located in New Farm's Spicers Balfour Hotel, offers an array of milk alternatives. General manager Sam Giles said in addition to full- and low-fat cow's milk, lactose-free, soy and almond milk had become popular menu picks.

"We like people to experience different things and that's why we've included alternate milks at no extra price," Giles said.

"I think a lot of people are making the move away from cow's milk for health reasons and also for taste reasons."

He said the nutty characteristics of soy and almond milks complemented coffee well, enhancing the depth of flavour. However, he said both varieties heat faster than cow's milk and need more attention to stop the milk from splitting.

At The Balfour Kitchen, unsweetened almond milk is used to maintain the integrity of the coffee.

"What a lot of people don't realise is that lots of these milks have a lot of added sugar, so that's important to take into account if you're making the switch," Giles said.

Sebastian Butler-White, owner of CBD cafe Pourboy Espresso, has included lactose-free and soy milk on his menu.

A coffee purist, he said lactose-free and soy milks do not interfere so much with the natural taste of the coffee, with many dairy drinkers choosing soy milk because of the nutty and creamy characteristics it adds to coffee.

"I think almond and rice milks can detract a bit from the coffee and that's why we've decided not to include them on our menu," Butler-White said.

"We do get a lot more people asking for almond milk now and though these different milks are becoming a lot more popular, regular milk still reigns supreme."

Know your milk

In all its forms, cow's milk is higher in calcium than most milks and is protein rich. Research shows low-fat cow's milk can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.

This milk is cow's milk, but with the lactose removed. It is easier to digest and maintains the benefits of regular cow's milk, being high in calcium and a good source of protein.

A good alternative milk for those who are lactose intolerant as it is easier to digest, goat's milk is high in phosphorus and zinc and contains the same levels of calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron as cow's milk. Some complain goat's milk tastes unpleasant.

A dairy-free and vegan milk, soy milk is made from soybeans and water and is high in calcium and protein. It's not recommended for babies and young children. Many swear by the nutty, creamy taste of soy milk.

Almond milk is high in antioxidants and low in fat, but does not contain a high amount of protein. It is made by steeping ground raw almonds in water, with the strained liquid becoming the "milk". It is dairy-, lactose- and cholesterol-free.

Coconut milk is made from the grated flesh of coconut which has been soaked in hot water and drained. It is high in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6, and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. However, it can be very high in fat.

Made from water and oats, oat milk is dairy-free and vegan, with a slightly sweet taste and creamy texture. It is high in fibre, folic acid and vitamin E, and is low in saturated fat. However, non-fortified oat milk contain considerably less calcium than cow's milk.

Free from lactose, cholesterol and saturated fat, rice milk is becoming a popular alternative to cow's milk. Mostly made from unsweetened brown rice, it is low in calcium and protein, however, many brands are fortified.

Reacquaint yourself with a favourite or discover a new breakfast spot during July with Good Food Month's Breakfast Club. See goodfoodmonth.com for participating venues. Good Food Month is a Fairfax Media event.