By Nathan Carey
It’s 2022 and you’re still drinking dairy? The rise of alternative plant milks seems almost unstoppable over the last 5 years, and while here in the West the endeavour may appear like a new craze, Eastern countries have been using non-dairy ‘milks’ for centuries. The earliest record of a plant based milk dates back to an Iraqi recipe book written in the 1200’s. The book makes mention of almond milk as an ingredient in a number of recipes. Just like today, the method of making the milk involves crushing the almonds into a fine powder and immediately mixing with water to create a homogenous liquid. In the early 1600’s there are records of many districts in China consuming soy milk and in the 1800’s Frenchmen visiting China wrote of the dairy alternative. In 1910, the first soy milk factory was established in Paris, with the first patent filed for such a product. The ever popular oat milk was first created by a food scientist studying intolerance to lactose in the 1990s. This creation led to the start of the best-selling oat milk brand ‘Oatly’. In the last five years the plant-based milk market has grown by 130%. In the last half year alone, it is estimated that the non-dairy milk market has increased by a whopping 16%.
Many peoples motivation for the switch to non-dairy milks stems from the increasing awareness that cow’s milk may not be the health elixir it was once promised to be. Scientists suggest that over half the world’s population are unable to properly digest dairy, and consuming it can lead to host of digestive issues. Another reason for the switch has to do with rising levels of veganism. According to The Vegan Society, google searches for ‘vegan food near me’ grew by over 5000% in 2020. Consumers are also becoming more aware and selective with their purchases regardless of whether they are vegan or not. This is especially true when choosing a preferred milk as the traditional dairy industry contributes to more than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In Ireland alone there was a 50% increase in dairy cow numbers in the last decade. Although groups such as Teagasc have vowed to decrease emissions in the next few years, switching to a plant-based milk option still stands as a better alternative.
Another great perk of plant-based milks is that they are relatively easy to make at home. If you’re in a pinch, why not try whipping up your very own batch! I’m going to share the procedure for homemade oat milk, but most variations are made in a similar fashion.
Homemade Oat Milk:
- 100g oats
- 750ml Water
- Submerge oats in a bowl of water to soften overnight (or at least 5 hours)
- Drain and add to a blender or food processor along with 750ml water
- Process for 2-3 minutes until smooth
- Filter through a fine mesh sieve (a muslin cloth or coffee filter can be added for a smoother texture)
- Will keep in the fridge in an airtight bottle for up to 4 days
Note: try experimenting by adding other flavours to your milk. Add a teaspoon of cocoa powder or some vanilla while blending to make tasty variations!