Serious Eats: Drinks
Taste Test: All the Nut-Based Milks from Three Trees
I'm going to go ahead and make a prediction: I think Three Trees is going to be big. The Emeryville, California-based company makes a variety of non-dairy nut-based milks. They currently offer six flavors for delivery and pickup through Good Eggs in the Bay Area, but are hoping to bring their products soon to grocery stores, health food stores, gyms, and cafes.
Their milks are made using California-grown almonds and pistachios. (They also make cashew milk, but they haven't been able to find a domestic source for those nuts.) They don't use thickeners or stabilizers such as carrageenan, guar gum, or xanthan gum. Instead, says founder Jenny Eu, they just "use more nuts!"
Eu says she was inspired to start Three Trees because grocery store shelves in the US "are filled with empty drinks such as sodas, diet sodas, lightly flavored teas, sugar-laden juices, or artificial energy drinks. I wanted to help bring something different to the beverage category," she says, "and I started to see the benefits of eating plant-based foods over animal products, for our health and for the environment." Eu explains that she's not a strict vegan—instead, she describes herself as "part of a growing number of 'aspiring vegetarians'" who seek out whole foods and look to nuts as a source of nutrition.
For the most part, these full-flavored nut-based drinks are most likely to serve as a smoothie substitute (or smoothie base!) or an afternoon snack, not a straight swap for plain dairy milk. They're just lightly sweetened, but putting one of these in your cereal would be a little like using boxed chai, for example, instead of plain milk. Each 8-ounce serving of the Three Trees milks has between 4 and 6 grams of protein, 9 to 13 grams of fat, and 8 to 9 grams of sugar.
We tasted the whole lineup at SE: Drinks headquarters. Here's what we thought of each flavor.
The almond milk is the only milk of the lineup where the nut pulp is filtered out, because it can be especially gritty. As a result, the texture of this milk is around that of whole milk—weighty, but not milkshake-thick. You'll seek flecks of vanilla bean in the bottom of the bottle and the vanilla flavor is pretty bold. We found this sweetened version a touch sweeter than we'd want in our cereal—luckily, they're releasing an unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk soon.
Almond Chai Spice
The Almond Chai Spice is flavored with vanilla beans, vanilla extract, ginger, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, allspice, and sea salt. The result smells—and tastes—amazing. This is our favorite of the almond milk lineup. The sweetness of this drinks works better than the straight vanilla because of the balance of spices, and you'll likely find it less sweet than most chai-flavored drinks on the market. There's no tea in the blend, but the almonds offer the backbone to ground the spices and bring all the flavors together. We love it cold, but it's also nice served warm.
Almond Cold Brew Coffee
The coffee added to this almond milk is cold-brewed by Three Trees starting with whole Fair Trade beans. There's also vanilla and sugar in the mix, but the coffee flavor is dominant. This isn't a super-sweet Frappuccino-style drink; it tastes like actual coffee, and is especially tasty over ice on a hot afternoon.
Though there are a number of producers of almond and even cashew milk, pistachio milk is not something we've seen much before. The Three Trees pistachio milk is a soft green color, and the flavor is pretty darn close to pistachio gelato, though it's definitely less sweet. The pistachio pulp is left in (the milk is 25-30% solid nuts by volume) so you do get a touch of powdery pistachio texture on your tongue, but that just enhances the potent 'whoa, this tastes like pistachios!' sensation. This nut milk is bold, flavorful, and unusual. We've gotten a little obsessed with this one: it's a little weird, but we really like it.
This one may not be as sweet as you'd expect. It's made with raw cacao powder and though sugar is added, it's not as sweet as most commercial chocolate milk mixes. The texture is super-rich and thick. Some of our tasters liked it over ice; others said they were reminded of Ensure.
Cashews offer a naturally creamy texture that's hard to find in other milks. The Cashew Cinnamon milk from Three Trees has a richness that stands out; this one pours like cream, not just whole milk. The sweetness of this milk is gentle and balanced. We'd gladly drink this one again, keeping in mind that it's pretty filling stuff!
Do you ever drink almond or cashew milk? Have you tried these milks from Three Trees? What did you think?
Tasting samples provided for review consideration.