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The Definitive Guide To The Best Independent Coffee Venues In London

Dairy Alternatives

Brewing up opportunity with plant-based options…

With one in four UK households now buying plant-based food and drink every week1, it’s no surprise that consumers expect to see these alternatives when they’re out and about too.
Whether it’s a soya cappuccino-to-go in a high-street coffee chain, or an almond latte in a local independent café, the humble cup of coffee is undergoing a healthy plant-based transformation, and the stats are there to back this up! Research suggests that soya, almond and coconut make up some of the top 10 most in-demand ingredients in coffee shops2 and nearly 1 in 5 consumers order a soya beverage at least once a month, a rise of 64% versus 2014!3
But whilst consumers are going crazy for plant-based options, plant-based drinks have for a long while been a bugbear for baristas. They are more troublesome to work with than their dairy counterparts and much sought-after latte art always seems just that bit out of reach. However, with the rise in demand for the perfect plant-based coffee, brands are starting to listen and we’ve found at least one who has a specifically formulated ‘Professionals’ range of their drinks which work better for baristas.
Putting plant-based to the test...
The Gentleman Baristas recently conducted a taste and workability test with a host of plant-based options.  Read on to discover their top tips on the pick of the plant-based choices that should be on your radar… and on your menu!
Before looking at the results of each ingredient, it’s worth mentioning that all drinks were tested in lighter (more acidic) and darker (less acidic) roasts, and all performed best with the lighter roasts.
Well-established and still growing in popularity, soya-based drinks have become a staple on every coffee shop menu.
With a creamy, sweet taste (and plant protein), soya is the go-to for those looking for a healthy plant-based option. This natural protein also aids workability for baristas.
Whilst Bonsoy had typically been the favourite for The Gentleman Baristas, this was rivalled in the recent taste tests by Alpro’s Soya ‘For Professionals’. Their combination of natural stabilisers and proteins allows the product to withstand the foaming and texturising process, resulting in an excellent microfoam and workability. Offering a considerable cost saving too, Alpro Soya ‘For Professionals’ came out on top.
A relative newbie that’s showing incredible growth in supermarkets, the demand for almond in hot drinks is now crossing over to coffee shops.
There are both sweetened and unsweetened almond drinks, but the taste test found that the sweetened variants work better in coffee.  Again, Alpro came out on top and their Almond Original was found to create the thickest drink with a good taste profile and workability.
One of the newest options for baristas, it’s no surprise to see the coconut trend making waves in the world of coffee.  
Delicious as it is, coconut can be a tricky to get right in coffee as it’s thinner than the barista, and drinker, may be used to. The only option which gave an acceptable level of performance in coffee was Alpro’s Coconut ‘For Professionals’, suitable because it’s been specifically formulated to overcome the aforementioned thin quality! An increased protein level gives it far better workability and offers baristas the opportunity to create the micro-foam and latte art they’re looking for, whilst retaining a taste which compliments coffee.
Probably the most indulgent-tasting of the widely-available plant-based options, hazelnut drinks are creamy and smooth, and the good ones have that unmistakably rich taste of hazelnuts which complements coffees and in particular, hot chocolates. They are a fabulous alternative to nut syrups for customers who want the flavour without the high levels of sugar that syrups can bring.  Hazelnut drinks heat up well but there are currently no options on the market that create a mirco-foam.  Alpro’s Hazelnut drink was voted top for tastes and there were no issues with curdling.
All taste test results are taken from an independent taste test conducted by The Gentlemen Baristas on 21st January 2016.
1 GFK, Q3 2015
2 UK Retail Coffee Shop Market – Strategic Analysis, December 2014
3 Allegra Project Café 2016 report

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