British Columbia·Growing Vegan

Vancouver coffee lovers jump on the oat milk bandwagon

Oat milk may just be oats and water, but Vancouver’s foremost coffee connoisseur says the city can’t get enough of the non-dairy alternative.

Popular coffee blogger says the milk alternative has 'exploded across the Vancouver coffee scene'

"From a barista's perspective, it's probably the closest alternative milk to actual cows milk," says Tom Fitzgerald, a self-described coffee connoisseur who runs the Vancouver Coffee Snob blog. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Growing Vegan is a multiplatform CBC Vancouver series that explores how the business of veganism thrives in B.C.

Step aside, soy. Adios, almond. Oat milk is the new milk alternative in town, and it's taken Vancouver's coffee scene by storm. 

The creamy substitute — made from blending oats, water, and often a little sweetener — has become a popular go-to for vegans and anyone looking for a milk substitute in their morning java.

"From a barista's perspective, it's probably the closest alternative milk to actual cows milk," says Tom Fitzgerald, a tech developer who runs the incredibly popular and cheeky coffee-review blog, Vancouver Coffee Snob. 

"It steams the same way. It tastes kind of sweet like dairy does. It doesn't have any weird astringent properties that some of the other milks might have."

According to Statistics Canada, there's been an overall decline in the amount of dairy milk sold in the country since 2009. In their stead, milk alternatives like soy and almond have picked up sales. 

From a texture and taste perspective, oat milk is very close to cows milk. (Roshini Nair/CBC)

Fitzgerald recently released a coffee app called Siply which allows users to visit curated coffee shops and pay using the app via their smart phones. 

He says he noticed an interesting spike in buying trends in the app data. 

"Half the lattes that we sell via Siply are oat milk lattes," he said, saying the other half are made up of lattes made of a mix of dairy and non-dairy milks.

"There's no other word to describe [that] other than it has exploded across the Vancouver coffee scene."

Broader trend

The popularity of oat milk fits in with the broader trend of Vancouver's thriving vegan and plant-based business scene

Megan Wallace, the founder and owner of NutMeg Mylk, makes hand pressed, preservative free nut and oat milks out of her East Vancouver commercial kitchen. 

She says she started her business two years ago out of necessity.

"I don't like the store bought nut milks and I couldn't do dairy so I took a workshop and learned how to make nutmilks from fresh," Wallace said. 

"I started giving them to friends and family and then from there we just organically grew."

Wallace provides her product, which retails at $8.99 to $10.99 per litre and on the boutique end of nut milks, to a number of cafes in the city. Other larger oat milk suppliers include the Burnaby-based Earth's Own, which has the largest share of oat milk sales in the country, and the Oregon-based Pacific Foods, either of which can be found at local grocery stores. 

"A lot of people are realizing that living a plant-based lifestyle isn't as hard as you might think," said Wallace.

"There are a lot of really great options out there and a lot of really good local companies that are there to provide that." 

Listen to the segment on CBC's On The Coast:

Oat milk may just be oats and water, but Vancouver’s foremost coffee connoisseur says the city can’t get enough of the non-dairy alternative. 6:09

Follow Growing Vegan on The Early Edition weekday mornings and On The Coast weekday afternoons on CBC Radio One, and watch CBC Vancouver News at 6 weekdays and read the daily stories online at cbc.ca/bc.

With files from Natascia Lypny

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