When I first started developing lactose intolerance—a fateful day that involved a large iced coffee; then running down a hill, almost in tears, screaming for a toilet—I started sampling many soy milks. I quickly discovered not all soy milks are made alike. Organic varieties are often as thick as clag, while home-brand numbers often have the watery consistency of liquid paper diluted in a bathtub. So when I discovered Bonsoy, I rejoiced. Made in Japan based on recipes developed by soy masters (these people exist) over centuries, Bonsoy remains the richest, creamiest and tastiest soy milk on the market. If Nigella Lawson was breastfeeding me, I’d expect the stuff spurting forth from her breasts to taste something like this. Some soy aficionados have turned their back on Bonsoy—understandably—after a recent scare found it to have excessively high levels of iodine, which caused thyroid problems. However, it’s back on the shelf now, presumably safe and, for what it’s worth, delicious as ever.
We paid: $5.00 for a litre.
Best Consumed: Too good to use in cereal, this is strictly either for your morning coffee or to be consumed on its own. Gently heated Bonsoy is a vegan’s best bet for getting back to bed after a bad night.
EcoMil Organic Quinoa Milk
To be honest, quinoa milk had me worried. For starters, I had no idea what a ‘quin-o-a’ was (the handsome hippie at the shop told me it’s actually pronounced ‘keen-wah’), and any product that non-ironically uses comic sans on its packaging should ring alarm bells for everyone. This stuff was also sweetened with agave syrup, another substance I wasn’t familiar with (until the same hippie explained to me that it’s a Mexican succulent). It was all very foreign and scary and confronting to me. Pouring myself a glass, I felt like how I imagined Pauline Hanson must feel when she sits down at a sushi train or gets invited to a Chinese restaurant. However, quinoa milk is surprisingly good. It’s as rich, white and smooth as full cream milk, squeezed straight from the udder. Quinoa itself is also obscenely health-giving and considered an almost perfect protein source. However, it’s also an acquired taste: there’s a lingering mustiness here. To some palettes, it will taste like the liquid that comes from milking a handful of wet kidney beans with your butt. It’s expensive too, so probably not the best bet for your regular milk source.
We paid: $7.95 for a litre.
Best Consumed: With strong coffee, or something similarly flavour-disguising.
Pure Harvest Organic Oat Milk
Oats are so multipurpose. If you have a rash or a debilitating skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, there’s a natural remedy that involves putting a bunch of oats in old pantyhose, climbing into a bath and rubbing this cold contained porridge all over your poor, ravaged body. Which is probably why I gagged slightly when I heard that people were making milk in a similar way. But as it turns out, oak milk is quite excellent. It has a subtle taste—not sweet; not watery—but retains a creamy texture and rich whiteness that is reassuring in its familiarity. Because oats are an excellent source of fibre (with more soluble fibre than any other grain) and are proven to have natural anti-depressant properties too, this is the breakfast milk of champions. On tip: Pure Harvest’s oat milk is desperately low in calcium, so if that’s a concern, you may want to reach for other varieties like Vitasoy, which pack the stuff in.
We paid: $2.95 for a litre.
Best Consumed: Think about it. Instead of using water or conventional milk, use can use oat milk to make THE ULTIMATE PORRIDGE. Has your mind exploded yet?
Pure Harvest Organic Almond Milk
A vegan friend of mine once told me how she’d get up in the morning to make almond milk. First, she’d grind her bulk-bought almonds into a fine, cocaine-like power, and squeeze filtered water though the almonds using muslin. By the end, this process took hours. Just thinking about the undertaking—as well as the high cost of almonds—made me light-headed. However, the lovely folks at Pure Harvest have taken the grunt work away from those of us who want to suckle the teat of nature’s favourite nut. For newcomers, almond milk may be a shock: this stuff looks less like milk and more like dirty creek water after a storm. As you might expect from a liquid squeezed from nuts (sorry), it’s also dense and viscous, and leaves a residue on your glass that’s slightly mucusy. But despite its glugginess, almond milk is quite drinkable and you can feel the health benefits straight away. However, having that much nut protein injected into you so quickly might leave you wanting to have a bit of a lie down afterwards. Be wary of overdosing.
We paid: $5.51 for a litre.
Best Consumed: Too thick for cereal, and may turn your coffee to sauce. However, the texture and nuttiness makes almond milk perfect for baking
Australia’s Own Organic Rice Milk
According to my mother, it’s good practice to wash your rice before you cook it. Firstly, you don’t know where it’s been; secondly, it prevents all the individual grains from sticking together in the pot. And when you’re done: behold! All that milky white watery rice residue makes for excellent plant fertiliser. Somewhere along the line though, someone decided that this ricey swill might make for a good beverage too. They were only half-right. Rice milk doesn’t actually look like milk; it looks more like chalk ground up into water, or the sort of “milk” that would be rationed out during a war. Of all the options though, it’s the least offensive tasting—which is to say, it’s similar to, say, water—and the most digestible, with a surprising sweetness, considering there’s no added sugar. If money is an issue, rice milk is by far the cheapest of the lot. But hey: if you hang outside the back of a Chinese restaurant long enough with an open mouth, just wait until the chef tips the rice water out the window. Then the stuff’s free.
We paid: $2.95 for a litre.
Best Consumed: Over heavily-flavoured artificial cereal. You know, on food that actually has some semblance of taste.
RICE & COCONUT MILK
Isola Bio Caprice Riso Cocco
I love coconuts and everything they yield—desiccated coconut; coconut juice; that incredible gelatinous coconut pudding at yum cha—but I’d never thought of coconuts as a regular milk substitute source. To be honest, I still don’t. From the name of this drink (“Isola Bio Caprice Riso Cocco!” makes me think of squealing topless women on an Italian game show) to the taste, there’s no way you could drink this all the time. What I look for in a milk-like beverage is something relatively health giving, but mild enough to have on cereal or by the glass. Isola Bio Caprice Riso Cocco is none of these things. It’s a dessert. It mightn’t have any cholesterol or fat, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. With this amount of sweetness, I suspect this stuff wouldn’t fortify your teeth, but would leave you toothless after a few months. Still, it’s a delicious treat. Add some Kahlua, stick a cocktail umbrella in your plastic tumbler, slip in some rohypnol and it’s just like you’re on a P&O Fairstar cruise.
We paid: $5.95 for 750ml.
Best consumed: On its own, or with Baileys if you want to get a little bit fancy.