With other coffee drinks, it’s a bit more complicated. A regular cappuccino or latte, for example, won’t be vegan as they’re normally made with cow’s milk. The same goes for macchiatos, cafe con panna (whipped cream) and the majority of drinks that aren’t straight black coffee. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives available, and vegan choice is growing in abundance by the day.
Firstly, if you go into your local café and ask for a vegan coffee it might raise eyebrows. That term isn’t really used, although most baristas would ask a few questions to work out what you’re looking for. You’re going to have to ask for a vegan or non-dairy milk replacement. Something like “a cappuccino with soya milk”. Most cafés will have at least one of the following milk replacements – almond milk, soya milk, oat milk, rice milk or coconut milk.
These are becoming more popular not just for environmental reasons, but because they each offer unique tastes, and some omnivores find them easier on the digestive system anyway.
Other niche vegan, non-dairy options might include cashew milk, quinoa milk, hazelnut milk, and hemp milk (although you’re more likely to find these in organic and vegetarian food shops rather than regular cafés). The word ‘milk’ is more of a nickname – it’s to identify the cool protein drinks that are like milk – and it sometimes can’t be used for legal reasons so you might see them described as “almond drink” for example, rather than “almond milk”.
If you want to be careful about provenance then do check with the barista that their products are 100% officially vegan – if it’s not certified, it means there might be dairy products involved somewhere in the production process. Some stabilisers and preservatives are derived from animal products, so it’s best to check.
If you’re going into a high-street chain and ordering a complicated smoothie-frappé concoction with cream, sprinkles, drizzle and chocolate brownie bits (basically a dessert in a cup), it’s a bit of a minefield for vegans. It’s best to ask the barista if it’s vegan before ordering, although do be prepared for the fact that they might just not know the answer.
Otherwise do your research online first if you can find an ingredient list.
Some coffee drinks don’t suit vegan alternatives quite as well. The classic cappuccino foam is sometimes a little tricky to make using soya milk, for example.
You could also spice up a black coffee with alternative flavour additions, if non-dairy milks aren’t available. Cinnamon adds a great sweet-spice warmth to a brew, as does nutmeg, and you could always go for a New Orleans coffee by adding chicory (a powdered alternative that’s sometimes used as a decaf coffee replacement) – although you probably won’t find this in most coffee shops.