The dairy industry had cause to celebrate recently when an EU court ruling declared that plant-based products must no longer use terms traditionally referring to dairy products, such as cheese, butter and milk. The move appears to have been prompted by concerns that the line between these products is becoming blurred, leading to confused consumers unwittingly blundering into the purchase of non-dairy products. As a consumer of dairy alternatives, I was immediately dubious about these claims, and decided to pay a visit to my local supermarket to determine if the evil vegan lobby were trying to trick innocent shoppers into their sinister alternative lifestyle.
As a Brit and a tea-drinker (obviously), I headed for the milk aisle, where I was pleased to see the shelves packed with dairy alternatives. I found that those products using the term ‘milk’ were all clearly labelled as soy, oat or almond, with packaging usually displaying an image of the main plant ingredient, and supplemented with statements such as ‘entirely plant-based’ and ‘suitable for vegans’. It seems difficult to believe that the average consumer will fail to notice these clear indications of a non-dairy product, and perhaps more likely that the continuing growth of the plant milk retail sector is unsettling an industry that has long held an absolute monopoly on this market. Either way, once you have employed all your powers of deduction and managed to determine which are the plant-based products, which one do you choose?
To tackle this question from an angle of utmost importance to the British consumer, we need to ask ‘will this make my tea look like egg drop soup?’ Fear not, potential British vegans! Here is a quick round-up of the most popular dairy alternatives to facilitate your tea addiction. Soy milk – this imparts a fairly creamy taste and good, typical english tea colour when just a small amount is added (otherwise it becomes a little overpowering), making it a good choice for those who like milky tea. Coconut milk – whilst this tastes great cold from the fridge, it fares badly in tea, with even a tiny amount adding a distinct coconut taste and greasy film. Almond milk, the most expensive option, imparts a noticeable but not unpleasant lightly roasted smell and taste when added to tea, although it does create a rather anaemic-looking brew. Although thin and a little bland straight up, the lack of strong flavour from the oat milk really allows the flavour of the tea through. The cheapest option, and with no additional aftertaste or greasy film, this is great as a replacement for semi-skimmed milk, and a solid choice for anyone looking for a plant milk specifically to add to tea. So, go try them out and find the one that works best for you, just don’t get confused and accidentally buy dairy.