Why is Oat Milk so Goddamn Delicious?


Kendall Lowery ’22
Food Columnist/Copy Editor

We all remember our first time. Maybe you mulled over the decision with a Motley barista or made an adventurous jaunt down to Augie’s; regardless of locale, you took a leap of faith, and if you’re anything like me, you didn’t look back.

My first foray into the realm of oat milk took place on a rainy fall day in late 2018. The Motley had just received their first shipment of the beverage and I was feeling curious, so I decided to mix up my (admittedly banal) go-to order of a dirty chai by adding an oaty twist. The surprising creaminess, satisfying froth, and comforting oat flavor satiated my famously discerning palette and simultaneously satisfied my slight lactose intolerance.

As if the experience weren’t convincing enough, according to the Water Footprint Network, growing a pound of oats requires merely one seventh of the water necessary to grow a pound of almonds, and making the switch somewhat alleviated the nagging guilt that had been fuelled by my almond milk habit. The culmination of all of these factors has resulted in my genuine dedication to the alt-milk (I may or may not have finished my second oat-milk-based beverage of the day while writing this). Needless to say, I’m hooked — and I’m clearly not the only caffeine-fiend swept up in the oat milk craze.

Within the past three years, oat milk has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in coffee shops across the United States. It was first developed by Rickard Öste at Sweden’s Lund University in the early 1990s, who coaxed the plant matter out of the grain by soaking it in water and adding natural enzymes. Öste quickly went on to help found Oatly, an international producer that is still a dominant force in the oat milk market. The Swedish brand officially launched in America in 2016, successfully gaining a foothold in the U.S. market by courting boutique coffee shops with free samples of the product; according to a survey by Deloitte published by Statista, Oatly’s revenue has skyrocketed from approximately $377,317,300 USD in 2015 to a whopping $907,855,200 USD in 2018. Baristas praise it for its creaminess, frothability, and comforting yet relatively neutral base flavor.

Oat milk circumvents the wateriness of other alt-milks and is substantial enough to provide a hearty template for a variety of drinks without intruding on their flavor profiles. Its reliable consistency also provides an advantage over its plant-based competitors that are prone to curdling when exposed to heat or cold. Unfortunately, until alt-milk supply chains can compete with those of the dairy industry, you may still have to pay an extra surcharge in some coffee shops to enjoy lactose-free caffeination.

We live in an era that boasts innumerable technological innovations, ranging from the quantum computer to the 20 types of plant-based milks that line our grocery store shelves. I for one am grateful that oat milk has joined their ranks, and I have a feeling that it’s here to stay.Whether it’s your first time trying oat milk or if you’re a long-time oat-convert, here are recommendations from our local baristas:

Clara Grim ’22 and Elle Biesemeyer ’21 are proponents of the classic oat milk latte. Biesemeyer additionally endorses an oat milk matcha cha cha.

If you’re feeling sweet, Maddie Moore ’22 recommends ordering an oat milk pumpkin pie hot cocoa.

Image Credit: Vivian Montiero ’23

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