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Milk Wars: A New Hope… In Hemp!

By Abhati Tarkunde and Darshana Gupta

From your source of calcium and other essential nutrients, to an environment-friendly option for your daily cup of joe, hemp milk is a growing trend for many reasons but still hasn’t become a popular choice among the Sydney crowd.

Hemp milk in the coffee industry has been prominent in Western Australia and the trend is now hitting the markets of Sydney and Melbourne, with Melbourne being the first city in the east to serve this alternative.

“With a heroic dose of omega 3s in each serve, hemp milk is the obvious choice to drive down inflammation, build healthy hormones, protect the brain and beautify skin. Coffee drinkers worldwide are quickly making the switch to hemp milk as it ticks all boxes – health, sustainability and taste,” says Daniel from Hempy Mylk.

Skim milk has dominated the coffee culture of Australia for decades but the past few years have seen the rise of numerous alternatives. These include soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, macadamia milk, rice milk, flax milk, cashew milk and hemp milk, among others.

“The alternative milk industry has been rapidly expanding in Australia over the past couple of years as more consumers are opting for plant-based lifestyles. Hemp milk contains calcium, protein, essential vitamins plus the added benefits of omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acids in the ideal 1:3 ratio,” says Tegan Scates, founder of High on Hemp and MaMilk, in an interview with HempMe. 

The texture of hemp milk is most closely linked to that of cow’s milk, in comparison to other vegan alternatives. The thickness of the milk and its nutty flavour compliment coffee resulting in a creamier consistency and is known for the fact that it does not split in hot drinks. It is the ideal option for latte art. 

“If enough people ask for a certain type of milk, we will provide it. That’s supply-demand. That’s rule 101 for a coffee shop. But, in general, I believe there’s enough milks,” says Nicholas Ditsas of the UNSW Q Lounge, on hemp milk as a potential alternative at coffee shops.

Dairy milk is still the most common choice of milk. “Most popular one, is skim milk,” agrees Somya Gandhi, of Three Beans Cafe, Beecroft. In terms of vegan options, Gandhi says “the vegans usually order almond milk coffees. It seems that skim milk is the first preference of Sydney-siders, with Ilgin Aykut, of Firehouse Grill, Mortdale, saying, “people use soy milk sometimes, but it’s not very common.”

“Not as much as you’d think, actually. We have put a few vegan options available and they tend not to leave at all,” says Mr. Ditsas on the popularity of dairy-free milks.

Hemp milk still remains fairly new to the market, with it being sold sparsely in stores, allowing it to gain less notoriety. “At the moment it is still full-cream milk, that is the most popular, pretty much by far to be honest. Followed by I’d say skim milk, then soy. You know what? Soy would probably be second. Soy is getting very popular at the moment,” says Mr. Ditsas.

It seems that hemp milk hasn’t percolated into the market quite as smoothly, being sold only in organic stores and very few cafes across Sydney.

Calm Farm Hemp is one of the giants of the hemp milk industry in Australia. Their supply ranges across the Southern and Eastern coast, including metropolitans such as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide.

Calm Farm Hemp milk is sold in some of the food stores of Sydney, including Fruitologist Bondi, Bayside Natural Health Centre and UMU.

The price range of hemp milk is a major factor in the stagnation of its growth. Bondi Grocer recently stopped selling the milk after they realised people aren’t spending on it. “It came for 7-8 dollars per litre… People tried it but it was just a bit too much,” says Ted from Bondi Grocer.

“So, we just started selling the fresh one… It’s not as popular as others like almond milk or coconut milk,” says Jackie from Fruitologist, Bondi. “The long-lasting hemp milk sells better. “It’s like 13 dollars for the fresh one and the long-lasting ones only cost 7.50.” 

However, hemp milk can easily be made at home using hemp seeds and water. Hemp seeds are sold in many stores in Sydney, e.g. Honest to Goodness and Doorstep Organics, and grown in licensed farms across the country.

The growth of hemp is highly sustainable and so hemp milk serves as quite an eco-friendly alternative. The plant can be grown without the use of herbicides and pesticides and is non-GMO.

The plant requires very little water to grow — unlike almonds harvested for the creation of almond milk, hemp uses only 1/3 of the water required by almonds. Additionally, the hemp plant can be used entirely during the creation of hemp milk, thereby ensuring there are no waste products.

The versatility of the plant is something most people are unaware of. The plant also plays a factor in reducing global warming as it utilises four times more carbon dioxide than trees in order to grow, thereby lowering the temperature of the atmosphere.

“We are still learning everyday about the power of cannabis and what it holds for not only us but for our environment,” says Scates in her interview with HempMe.