From Oatly to DIY, the latest darling of the dairy-free milk set has a lot going for it.
For anyone shunning cow’s milk, the search for alternatives might not have been a delicious nor necessarily nutritious journey. Commercial nut milks and their brethren are often chock full of ingredients that seem unnecessary. And, in this writer’s opinion, have flavors that don't work all that harmoniously with things like coffee – which for many, is the key place that one wants an alternative dairy product to sing.
The most recent kid on the block, in The States at least, is hoping to change that. And this time, it might work, especially since the best known company making it, Oatly, is A) being embraced by baristas from coast to coast and B) Swedish; say no more. Except that I will say more, because it’s actually really good and doesn’t make coffee taste like sad sweet-bitter dishwater. Bon appetit magazine goes so far as to describe oat milk as "the cashmere sweater of winter drinks."
So here's the quick cheat sheet on Oatly, the company making the big oaty splash, and on oat milk itself.
1. Oatly was founded in Malmo, Sweden, by researchers from the University of Lund in the early 1990s when they discovered “oats could provide a nutritional alternative to cow's milk.” You can see how they became what they are today in the video below.
2. The company debuted its products to the U.S. market in coffee shops rather than supermarkets. In the last year, they have gone from 10 locations in New York to more than 1,000 locations across the country. In February, Oatly will be available at Wegmans, followed by Fairway, ShopRite and the California chain Bristol Farms.
3. Oat milk doesn’t contain dairy, nuts, gluten (when made with gluten-free oats), or soy. (Oatly, in particular, doesn’t include genetically modified organisms.)
4. Oats require six times less water than do almonds, notes the New York Times. California's almond crop commands 1.1 trillion gallons of water every single year, as I wrote when the Golden State was in the midst of a drought, yet still struggling to supply the masses with their beloved almond milk. (See 5 nuts not grown in California for more on that.)
5. While some nutritionists claim that oat milk isn't an equal nutritional swap for cow milk, here is Oatly's claim: "It’s a pretty optimal option for everyday use because it has been enriched with calcium and vitamins (A, D, riboflavin, B12) and includes 2% fat from rapeseed oil and oats. There’s no added sugar whatsoever, just lovely natural sugars from oats. And we have made sure that the beta-glucans (big, scientific word for the soluble fiber in oats) in this one are strong and handsome."
6. Natasha Hinde at the Huffington Post notes that oat milk naturally contains more B vitamins than soy and coconut milk, and has "proven to be a great option for people who have multiple allergies – for example to nuts, soya and dairy products."
7. In 2015, the Swedish Dairy lobby, LRF Mjölk – which represents companies that have total sales 200 times greater than Oatly – sued the oat milk company for ads that cast cow’s milk as unhealthy. After the lawsuit, Oatly CEO Toni Petersson said sales grew significantly. “My mistake,” he says. “Maybe I should have tried it before.”
8. You can make your own oat milk (though it will differ from Oatly's because of their "enzyming" step).
• You can use steel cut, whole groats, or rolled oats.
• Use one part oats to two parts water and soak overnight until the oats have absorbed the water and are soft.
• Blend in a blender until smooth, then drain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth – the liquid is your oat milk.
• The strained mush can be treated like porridge and eaten for breakfast, added to cereal, or used in baking.
Bump up you oat milk with a little maple syrup if you like ... and finally enjoy dairy-free coffee that doesn't hurt your soul.