I’ve been trying milk substitutes in my tea – it’s a stomach-churning experience


Following my bleating about the ethical complexities of milk, I have been experimenting with plant-based options, prompted by many helpful suggestions from non-dairy evangelists. This has involved numerous sacrifices to the dark lord Tetra Pak, and the kind of side-effects you see on medicine packaging: nausea, dysphagia and vomiting. I’m ultra-sensitive to tannin, but addicted to tea, and plant milks do not seem to neutralise its nausea-inducing effect the way cow’s milk does.

A coconut-based contender, which got rave reviews for its “neutral taste” (if you’ve tried pea milk, you’ll understand), seemed perfect for the first few mouthfuls, but by halfway through my cup, I was rushing to throw up: not the optimum start to the day.

Rice milk – also highly recommended – was oddly reminiscent of those soya desserts my mum’s hippy friends used to pretend were “just like chocolate mousse” when I was little: a lie then and a lie now.

Oat, of course, is the plant milk du jour: a market predicted to be worth $6.8bn (£4.6bn) by 2026. Disinclined to support market leader Oatly with its hard-to-recycle zany “wackaging” (I don’t want to be jollied along by my breakfast, thanks), I went for doorstep-delivery glass bottles. Unfortunately, the sight of this in my morning brew – a chilling, perpetual-motion snowstorm of oat scum, seemingly alive – is stomach-churning.

Now Alpro, a brand that languished on patchouli-scented health-food shop shelves next to flower essences for so long it must be due a comeback, has launched the unpleasantly named, soya-based My Cuppa, specifically targeting the tea problem. I managed one mug of it without even really noticing: the holy grail of a plant milk. The second attempt was less successful. It’s close, but slightly spooky-tasting; the uncanny valley of milk substitutes.

I’m not giving up. Science has offered hope of eradicating malaria and HIV, and given us some highly effective vaccines against Covid in a matter of months. We can even send billionaires into space (please, let’s do more of that). Surely a non-dairy liquid that does not turn tea into a curdled, nightmarish broth is within our grasp?