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Taste Test Thursdays

Taste Test: Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives

Let's get nutty. (And oat-y, and pea-y.)

Here is a Tweet that I read on Thursday morning:

I agree. Not a big fan. But it got me thinking about oat milk.

I had my first encounter with the milk substitute last year. It was in latte form, but I don’t remember where I was. I don’t even think I was in Dallas. It doesn’t matter. What I do remember, though, is thoroughly disliking the incident. The milk was denser than almond and soy varieties and it coated my mouth in a bitter film. I recall having a stomach ache afterward, too, which I know could be attributed to a billion other factors. But I associate it with that experience.

The milk alternative was invented by Swedish company Oatly in the ’90s but it didn’t start “trending” until 2017. The beverage is made by soaking oats in water, pulverizing them, and then straining out the hunks. It’s so simple, you can do it at home. According to a study published on Refinery29, oat milk sales grew 425 percent from 2017 to 2018. That’s a considerable leap, even for a product that didn’t have much buzz preceding those years.

People dig oat milk. I had to give it a second try.

I decided to bring my colleagues along with me on this journey. After all, my love language is Quality Time. And I needed content for the blog.

I drove to Whole Foods on my lunch break to pick up some oat milks but there were only two to choose from: Pacific and Dream. This wasn’t enough for a proper taste test, so I ditched the idea and reworked it. We would taste every type of milk alternative that Whole Foods offers. Yes! Genius! (I just discovered, after a quick Google search, that this is not an original idea. God bless the collective consciousness.)

I got oat milk, cashew milk, rice milk, pea milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, soy milk, and almond milk. I also got a box of chocolate chip cookies as a reward for participating.

There were nine volunteers. This is four more than last week’s egg salad taste test.

I poured each milk into a tiny shot glass and took them back like a Buttery Nipple or a Melon Ball—one of those sweet shots you don’t mind tasting before you swallow. They were fine. I pour cashew milk on my cereal at home, and occasionally drink almond milk in my coffee, so I suppose my ‘buds are accustomed to nut-beverages. I didn’t even hate the oat milk. I’d be open to trying it in another latte.

Some of my colleagues, however, reacted like their palates had never been exposed to anything but a cow’s udder. There were gags. There were angry remarks. “This must be her passive aggressive, aggressive, aggressive way of getting back at us for not liking us,” muttered executive editor, Kathy Wise. One person, who asked to remain anonymous, complained of gas afterward. You’d think I’d asked them to drink a glass of room temperature turpentine with muddled Band-Aids. I felt bad. But only for a fleeting moment, because then I remembered that I’d brought them bagels for breakfast that morning. With two flavors of cream cheese. Plus, this wasn’t torture. It was research.

Afterward, I hopped on a call with Murray Street Coffee owner Doug Davis to get a local business owner’s take on milk alternatives. “We offer almond, soy, coconut, and oat milk,” he says. “When we first opened the shop [in 2005] 15 to 20 percent of our espresso beverage sales were with milk alternatives, now we’re up to about 40 percent.” While Davis prefers heavy cream with his espresso, when he does opt for dairy-free, he digs oat milk. He says it steams the best. He also says that coconut milk is excellent in cold drinks.

Word.

So, which milk alternative is the best according to the persnickety palates of the D Magazine staff?

Let’s find out.

Dream Oat Beverage

This smells like a yolk that’s flirting with turning sour. It tastes much better, like liquidized oatmeal. I guess this is the oat milk? I’m not mad at this, actually. Just don’t smell it.

I remember the good ol’ days when we used to taste test pizza and cake.

Oh, wow – it’s a little weird; it has a pretty distinctive grainy flavor. I like it.

Smells like soy milk but tastes like rice milk. I think this one is vanilla flavored, and it’s a little too sweet for all-purpose milk use. Also, this might be the pea milk. I don’t like this very much.

Tastes like rice porridge but slightly sweet.

Light, sweet, a little rice-y.

Decent, slightly sweet, would be good with cereal.

Nutty. Nicer aftertaste.

This brought me back to the time I had hives and was put in an oatmeal bath. I think I was maybe three or four. I remember trying to eat the oatmeal. This is surely that exact taste.

So Delicious Coconut Milk

This smells like nothing! That is an improvement from A. It leaves a weird chalky film and kind of tastes like what I imagined sweetened chalk would.

First one to vomit loses.

Yikes—why are there chunks??? Texture is awful. Tons of stabilizer. I feel like I’m drinking a cornstarch slurry.

This one looks like coconut milk, smells like nothing and tastes like cow milk mixed with water. Inoffensive but texturally a little off.

Watered down cream. Looks like chalk water.

It looks odd, cloudy, are there specs floating in there? CHONK. Coconut milk!

Gross.

Too watery and bland.

Tastes good. Mild and sweet. But it’s kind of chunky.

Pacific Cashew Beverage

This smells like cardboard. It looks like a whitened Pepto-Bismol. Is that cashew? God this sucks. Why am I doing this? I don’t even like milk. This makes me want to go back to A. Which also sucked.

What kind of fucked up cow did this come from.

Oh, God, I hate this. Ugh, watery and wimpy.

This one smelled like almond milk but tastes like straight up peas. If this isn’t the pea milk, I really don’t know anything. (Directly after typing this, Catherine told me it’s not the pea milk. It does, I guess, taste like cashews now that I’m thinking about it.)

GROSSSSSSSS. NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS.

Tastes like dust/what I imagine paint would taste like.

EWWWWWWWW. Vomit. Puke. Barf.

Worst ever.

Tastes like the crust of a cheap pizza, like Red Baron. I like cheap pizza but I don’t like drinking cheap pizza.

Organic Edensoy Extra Original Soy Milk

Looks like dookie water. Not even sure what this tastes like. It’s kind of seaweed-y. Get this out of here. Get this all out of here.

Is this made from hay?

So nutty brown! I like this. There’s a nice savory-sweetness to complement the soy. Nutty, a little bean-y.

This is the color of a cappuccino but it tastes not like a cappuccino. It tastes funny, with a flavor that reminds me of toasted nuts or maybe a very dry grass.

I like this but I can’t put my finger on what it tastes like. Kinda has a coffee aftertaste?

Hmm. Soybean? Not a fan. Pea milk?

Tastes like almonds? Not awful.

Blahhh.

This smells really yeasty. Like making Play-Doh out of flour. The aftertaste gave me an embarrassingly dramatic reaction.

Blue Diamond Almond Milk

What is this, milk of magnesia? No. No. NO.

Best of the batch.

This will appeal to people who like a sweeter alternative milk. It’s like Frosted Flakes: pour it on Cornflakes, and you’ve got it.

This is definitely vanilla almond milk. It tastes good, less sweet than A but still pretty sweet.

Ooo. This one tastes good. Kinda sweet like almond milk.

I like this one. It has a nice vanilla-y taste.

Very sweet. I’d drink this.

Flavorful, I like it!

The nutty taste was overpowering kind of in an aromatic way? I felt it in my nose. Other than that, passable.

Organic Rice Dream

This one looks like skim milk. That is, somehow, a good sign. Oh this one tastes like oats too. I’m not mad at that. It doesn’t infuriate me.

Not awful.

Oh, I like the rice-y or hempiness of this. Nice. I can imagine it on granola or oatmeal.

Too thin for my taste and a weird texture. It does have a clean, plant-based flavor going for it.

Coconut-y? Tastes like cereal milk.

A very light flavor, a slight taste of hay, a slight taste of vanilla. Slight taste of Play-Doh.

Tastes like broccoli, don’t care for.

Smooth. Nice aftertaste.

I feel like this is what breastmilk would taste like. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Ripple Pea Milk

This tastes like soy. It smells like cardboard. I’m guessing it’s soy milk. I remember I used to eat soy protein shakes in high school because I was a late bloomer and my football coach wanted me to bulk up. It didn’t work. This doesn’t work for me. It just tastes like bad nostalgia.

Punches your taste buds right in the face.

Blech. This tastes protein fortified. It’s a little too thick for me. More like a protein drink.

This one is thicker and creamier with a grassy under taste. This could be nice in coffee. I don’t love the way it tastes, but I don’t dislike it.

Is this American soy milk? Too thick. Not a fan.

This is what I imagine frat-boy-Chad takes before hitting the weights at the gym. It’s thick and tastes synthetic.

Too thick. No thanks.

Heavy but tasty.

One time I had to get a CAT scan of my stomach and they had me drink some odd concoction with dye in it so they could get a clear image. This tastes exactly like that. Chalky and medicinal.

Tempt Hemp Milk

Oh my god this is chalky. No. This is over. I’m done with this. I’m going to Whole Foods and I’m turning over the fake milk aisle. This is it for me.

1/10 would rather drink belly button milk.

I just want to cry. Skank!!!!

Particular. I think this is soy, as it has that boxed mylk flavor. not horrible, definitely not good.

My eyes started tearing up on this one because I could feel part of my soul leaving my body. Big fowny face. What did I ever do to you, Catherine?

You made Eve cry. Personally, I didn’t think it was that bad. Not my favorite but it has a sour-ish aftertaste. Tastes like watered down milk.

Bad bad bad aftertaste, like bricks.

Subtle and versatile.

This is extremely oatish. It tastes like the time I made overnight oats wrong and it was a soggy mess. No, thank you.

Tally up: 

Dream Oat Beverage 2

So Delicious Coconut Milk 1

Pacific Cashew Beverage 0

Organic Edensoy Extra Original Soy Milk 1

Blue Diamond Almond Milk 4

Organic Rice Dream 0

Ripple Pea Milk 1

Tempt Hemp Milk 0

The winner is Blue Diamond Almond Milk. This outcome makes sense. Almond milk is super popular. So popular, in fact, that according to this study by UCSF, our love affair with almonds could be doing harm to the planet. This is in no way meant to make you feel ashamed for liking almond milk. Everything in moderation, right?

This includes nut milk, heavy cream, and Buttery Nipples.

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