Serious Eats: Drinks
We Try Califia Farms' New Almond Milk Iced Coffees
Life's gotten better for those who avoid dairy: I remember a time when there was only soy milk and rice milk, and then a time when a 'Milk Not From A Cow" Serious Eats taste test yielded some not-super-enthusiastic reviews for things like oat milk and hemp milk. But a number of small-batch vegan milk-alternative producers have popped up (we adore New York's OMilk), and even gourmet doughnut shops are producing their own versions of nut milk. A few months back, our local coffee roaster banished soy milk and replaced it with almond milk from Califia Farms, and we started noticing the stuff in high-end groceries all around town.
Califia Farms' AlmondMilk (which is made from whole blanched (not roasted) California almonds) is available in number of the flavors you might expect (original, unsweetened, vanilla, and coconut) but they recently launched a ready-to-drink iced coffee option for vegan, non-soy drinkers—and for those of us who just like the taste of almond milk. While we generally shy away from premixed, ready-to-drink anything, having prepared iced coffee ready to go in the fridge is a convenience we're interested in. Because we're never more lazy than before we've had coffee, and we've always forgotten to make cold brew the night before.
The iced coffee drinks come in three flavors: double espresso, café latte, and mocha. The Double Espresso smells quite sweet (we had a moment of scary, scary flashbacks to the Coffeemate Challenge of 2012). But the drink is actually quite balanced, with a roasty coffee character, mellow sweetness, and a nice nutty-roasty finish, a bit like the aftertaste on dark chocolate. (It reminded us more than a little of Baileys Irish Cream, but in the best possible way.) If you drink your coffee intense and black, this is obviously not for you, but if you like it creamy, this bottled option is worth having in your fridge. The Double Espresso flavor is 80 calories per 8 ounce serving, but it's pretty filling, so we're not certain we'd drink that much. Each serving has 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, and 20% of your daily recommended calcium intake. (Nutrition facts for the other flavors vary a little.)
The Café Latte has a much more delicate coffee flavor; only the slightest hint of it comes through, so you're mostly getting creamy, smooth, almond milk here. It's not too sweet (though, again, the aroma is a little French Vanilla for our taste), but this feels much more like drinking almond milk than like drinking iced coffee. Again, it'll fill you up pretty fast.
The Mocha smells like milk you've dunked your chocolate Teddy Grahams in. It's sweeter than the others, with a grainy, nutty flavor coming out that distracted from the milky chocolate side. Is there coffee in here? Yes, but you can't taste it that well. This is the only bottle we'll likely not finish, unless we use it as a sweet base for morning smoothies.
Ready-to-drink coffee-and-(nut)milk mixes don't leave you the power to control how the coffee/milk balance. We might like to see an EXTREME bottling with, say, half the almond milk in these mixes. Or we could just get the almond milk and mix it with coffee to taste...if we could remember to make that darn cold brew.