“Drink more milk, it’s good for you.” The echoes of our parents’ delightful nagging still live on in our heads today, but you know what — we’re free to make our own choices now. And if you happen to be vegan, lactose-intolerant, or into the whole environmental sustainability movement, alternatives to the usual dairy milk, or cow’s milk, sound like a good choice.
A few years ago, I would have said no; I wasn’t a fan of cold-pressed almond milk and its texture, which was more like a suspension than a well-blended formula. But brands like Oatly have since gained prominence, and are offering plant-based milk that can be seriously yummy. Even I’m starting to see the draw of oat milk lattes — which often adds a subtle nutty aroma to my coffee.
For Oatly, there are currently four key items in their drink range, namely the Enriched, Organic, Chocolate, and Barista. Made with oat milk, these are said to be more nutritious than their animal by-product counterpart, since oats are rich in beta-glucans, which reduce levels of blood cholesterol while strengthening the immune system. On top of that, Oatly oat milk is also free of trans fat and low in saturated fat, rich in calcium and vitamins, while it’s safe for most diets, even those with nut allergies.
If the health angle hasn’t yet satisfied you, consider its sustainability benefits — which, according to a recent survey by the brand, isn’t as well-known to consumers in Singapore. A large part of why it’s more sustainable has to do with its environmental impact. According to a BBC report, oat milk produces relatively few greenhouse gases, and requires much less land and water in its production process compared to dairy milk. You can read Oatly’s entire sustainability report for 2019 on their website too.
With that, all that’s left is taste and texture, and here’s where we find out whether Oatly’s plant-based milks can truly replace dairy milk. It’s a tall order, for sure, but that’s the whole point isn’t it?
THE ENRICHED OAT DRINK
Oatly’s original oat milk, in that bright blue packaging, is a formula that’s been around for more than 30 years since its creation in a Swedish university. According to the brand, it’s special due to their patented enzyme technology that “copies nature’s own process and turns fibre rich oats into nutritional liquid food that is perfectly designed for humans”.
As for the drink itself, I like how it’s a full-bodied drink compared to nut milks, and I like its general taste — despite containing no nuts, there was a distinct nutty flavour compared to dairy milk. However, and unfortunately, I was left a little underwhelmed. The taste was alright, but it was the texture that was more of a letdown for me.
When I poured it out of the carton, despite some intense shaking as recommended, its consistency was relatively thinner than what I was used to, with a faint off-white tone that reminds me of soy milk. I didn’t get the creamy texture of dairy. Maybe this would be a good alternative when added to coffee, or while cooking or baking, but I’d hesitate to drink this on its own. (Don’t worry, the rest of the series gets better.)
OAT DRINK: BARISTA EDITION
Behold, the Barista Edition. Observant folks might spot this behind the counter at your favourite cafe. Now, I’m clearly no professional barista, but I occasionally make my own coffee at home with the help of a Nespresso machine. And good news here — compared to the slightly-underwhelming original, I really enjoyed the Barista version!
What’s different is that this contains 3% fat, of the healthy kind, which makes quite the difference as this one’s specifically formulated to foam up, so you can create that dense foam or latte art that sits atop your artisanal coffee. And this one’s a performer.
To put it to the test, I poured both the original version and this version into my milk frother. Unsurprisingly, the former stayed in its original state, while to my delight, the Barista edition started frothing up, creating quite a decent amount of lightly whipped milk foam.
Truly, it looked pretty good! The oat milk didn’t split or separate either, while I feel that the Barista edition has a more creamy consistency compared to the original version, far more similar to regular milk. Paired with coffee, I managed to achieve a somewhat cafe-quality cuppa at home, maybe it’s because I happened to choose a blend of coffee that complements the nutty notes of the oat milk. There was also a subtle sweetness that made the drink enjoyable, a natural taste that comes from the oats, which didn’t feel as overwhelming compared to soy milk. It also tastes “lighter” than soy milk does and doesn’t weigh the flavours of the drink down. For those who love oat milk’s health and sustainability benefits, or who might feel like dairy causes your skin to break out (another reason to make the switch), I’d totally recommend this.
OAT DRINK CHOCOLATE
I’m a milo peng girl, so when Oatly dropped their range of cartons at my door, this was the one I was most looking forward to. Plus, I’ve never really tasted oat milk and chocolate, so it was high on the novelty list — which explains why it’s constantly sold out in stores too. They recommend you to “shake well” but my advice is this: shake it very well. Here, Oatly combines their oat milk with UTZ-certified cocoa that goes through sustainable farming practices and fair conditions, for a drink that’s frankly pretty full of chocolate-y goodness.
That said, the thick, creamy texture of the chocolate milk and its rich taste, only came through during the second half of my carton. When I first poured it out from the packet, the consistency was visibly thinner and more transparent, with a noticeably flatter taste that my body recognises is not-chocolate-milk. Once I got to the second half though, which has also been sitting in my fridge for longer if that helps, I got to fully enjoy the familiar and welcome taste of chocolate milk, making this quite the worthy alternative!
Overall, I did enjoy the taste of Oatly’s oat milk, and see the appeal of plant-based milks for its sustainable practices. It might be a bit more pricey than my usual cartons of milk, but since I don’t drink that much milk anyway (outside of, ahem, bubble tea and lattes), I feel like I can justify making that switch.