From soy to almond, pea to hemp milk, these days, there are an endless array of dairy-free creamer alternatives to add to your coffee, but none have come as close to the flavor and texture of real dairy as the recently popularized oat milk. With its creamy consistency and rich taste, oat milk is quickly becoming the dairy alternative of choice in the coffee world.
Recently, I visited Hal’s Office Coffee in Albany to give oat milk a taste. I asked the barista what brand of the milk Hal’s uses — she answered, “Oatly. That’s what everyone’s using.”
Oatly is a Swedish company founded in 1993 by Rickard Öste, a science professor who wanted an alternative to dairy that would be good for both the environment and our taste buds. Öste used Sweden’s abundance of oats, along with the addition of plant-based canola oil, to create Oatly. Over time, the company gained a following in Europe. Then last March, Oatly entered the American market via coffee shops. Since then, it’s gained major popularity among baristas and lactose-intolerant or -averse coffee drinkers.
Other brands, like Pacific Foods, also produce the non-dairy beverage, but Oatly is the first brand to focus solely on the production of oat milk and to distribute exclusively through cafés. While Oatly is produced in the U.S., it is not sold in Bay Area grocery stores. Because of that, along with its growing fan base, cafés that carry can often run out.
Baristas stand behind oat milk because it has a thick consistency, steams well and creates a steady foam. It also complements coffee flavors without overpowering them. It’s also dairy-free and gluten-free. Plus, it tastes pretty darn good. In my opinion, it tastes better than cow’s milk.
You can try oat milk for yourself at one of the following locations in the East Bay:
BARTAVELLE COFFEE & WINE BAR Down on San Pablo Avenue, Bartavelle serves up coffee (and other offerings, like its breakfast porridge) with the option of oat milk. Bartavelle’s oat milk mocha is a good bet — the creaminess of the oat milk perfectly complements the mocha’s rich chocolatey taste. Bartavelle Coffee and Wine Bar, 1603 San Pablo Ave. (between Cedar and Virginia), Berkeley
BEANERY COFFEE CO. OF ALAMEDA Although The Beanery’s Elmwood location closed, its sister site in Alameda remains open. The café offers tons of teas and various coffee roasts to try with the oaty alternative. Beanery Coffee Co., 1650 Park St. (at Buena Vista), Alameda
BONDADOSO COFFEE AND TEA COLLECTIVE This Walnut Creek café offers teas, classic coffee roasts and cold brew — all go well with a splash of oat milk. For something unique, try the cold brew with oat milk and a splash of lavender syrup. Bondadoso Coffee and Tea Collective, 2195 N Broadway St. (at Pine), Walnut Creek
EQUATOR COFFEE & TEAS All of Equator’s locations — in Oakland and farther west in San Francisco, Mill Valley and Larkspur — carry Oatly. The vanilla oat milk latte is the way to go. Equator Coffee & Teas, 175 Bay Pl. (at Harrison), Oakland
FIREBRAND ARTISAN BREADS Uptown Oakland’s industrial style bakery, Firebrand Artisan Breads, includes oat milk on its menu to enjoy in coffee, chai lattes and hot chocolates as well. For something different, try the turmeric oat milk latte. Firebrand Artisan Breads, 2343 Broadway (between 23rd and 24th), Oakland
GOLD LEAF CAFÉ As one of Berkeley’s newest cafés, Gold Leaf joins the list of oat milk suppliers. It serves up specialty coffees from Counter Culture with a featured decaf and iced drink every day. Soon, Gold Leaf will offer a homemade chai latte which you can try with oat milk, but for now, a classic latte or mocha are great options to satisfy your oat milk craving. Gold Leaf Cafe, 1951 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, (between University and Berkeley), Berkeley
HAL’S OFFICE COFFEE Up in Albany, Hal’s Office baristas always ask guests’ milk preference. While many customers still opt for dairy to accompany their Counter Culture coffee blends, more are opting for oat milk. Hal’s creamy oat milk latte has a foam that lasts to the very last sip. Hal’s Office Coffee, 1207 Solano Ave. (between Cornell and Talbot), Albany
LA CHÂTAIGNE While this patisserie in Lafayette is all about artisan breads, tarts, crêpes and other desserts, its oat milk lattes are a great companion for any of these sweets. La Châtaigne, 35 Lafayette Cir. (at Mt Diablo), Lafayette
OESTE CAFÉ Old Oakland Oeste has a tiny daytime café next door to its restaurant-bar space, serving sandwiches, salads and coffee drinks made with Roast Co. beans. All coffee drinks can be made with Oatly, but we especially suggest trying its lavender oat milk latte. Oeste Café, 730 Clay St. (at 8th St.), Oakland
PERCH COFFEE At this popular Grand Avenue hangout, drip coffee, chai tea lattes, mochas, hot chocolate and other beverages can be ordered with Oatly. Perch Coffee, 440 Grand Ave. (between Bellevue and Staten), Oakland
SCARLET CITY COFFEE Emeryville’s Scarlet City Coffee carries Oatly to accompany its coffee blends, single roasts and decaf options. Guests’ favorite drinks are oat milk mochas and oat milk lattes. When describing the oat milk latte, Yelper Victoria V. says “I don’t know why, but it is everything you needed in your life.” Scarlet City Coffee 3960 Adeline St. (at Yerba Buena), Emeryville
TIMELESS COFFEE AND BAKERY The vegan café and bakery, Timeless Coffee and Bakery, with locations in Berkeley and Oakland offers oat milk as one of its non-dairy options. Guests love adding oat milk to the peppermint mocha and the tea latte. Timeless Coffee and Bakery, 2965 College Ave. (between Ashby and Webster), Berkeley, 4252 Piedmont Ave. (between Echo and Glenwood), Oakland
1951 COFFEE Word around town is that 1951’s oat milk lattes are quite delicious, especially when iced. For something a little sweeter, request the honey oat latte. 1951 Coffee, 2410 Channing Way (between Dana and Telegraph), Berkeley