Note: Califia Farms previously released “protein” varieties of their almond milk which contained dairy milk. They have since reformulated and the new protein almondmilks are dairy-free, soy-free, plant-based and vegan (made with pea protein and brown rice protein).
It would take two hands to count the number of times someone at Expo West mentioned Califia Farms and their almond milk to me. As soon as I uttered the words “dairy-free,” I was bombarded with suggestive questions: Have you tried that new almond milk? Have you been to the Califia Farms booth yet?
On the second day of the show, I finally made my way to the Califia Farms booth to see what all of the fuss was all about. I was immediately greeted by the enthusiastic founder of the Almondmilk products and an insanely cute set-up with beautifully packaged products, from the Califia Farms Almondmilk and Dairy-Free Iced Coffees (seriously!) to their aptly named Cuties juice and smoothie products.
So why the hype? For starters, Califia Farms seems to be a darn good company. They are non-GMO verified, use 100 percent recyclable packaging (BPA-Free PET bottles), and take special care in product production. While other brands of almond milk use roasted almonds, Califia uses blanched “raw” California almonds to retain more of the fresh almond taste and natural nutrients.
We concurred that Califia Farms Almondmilk does indeed retain more flavor; it has a more intense almond vibe than most other almond milks. It’s also very rich, and even a bit creamier than 2% dairy milk. It comes in
four five flavors:
Creamy Original – For true almond milk lovers only, this variety has just a hint of sweetness, but is rich with almond flavor. Tony loved it in his coffee. I found it a little rich for me for general sipping as did my niece, but very good in smoothies, hot chocolate, and when coupled with hearty granola.
Vanilla – Considering Califia’s penchant for richness, we were expecting some in-you-face vanilla with this flavor, but it was surprisingly mild. Just an essence of vanilla, and actually a little less sweet than the Original variety, but with the same full-bodied consistency.
Unsweetened – Pure, no sugar added, almondy goodness. I love having a good almond milk on hand without any sugar, to compliment when something is already a bit sweet, or to help out in savory dishes. The true almond flavor doesn’t work with all savories, but is great for heartier or earthy recipes.
Toasted Coconut – I didn’t think coconut would be able to compete much with the almond milk base, but it actually overpowers it! Even richer than the others, and quite coconutty, this could work as a great stand-in for half and half in recipes, as long as the coconut profile suits the dish. I’m thinking it would make a marvelous light pina colada, too! Tony liked it in his coffee, but preferred the Original Almond Milk.
*Seasonal* Holiday Nog – First released for the holidays in 2014, I feel that this nog falls under the Almond Milk category rather than busting out on its own as a special beverage. Made primarily with the Califia Farms base of almond milk and pure cane sugar, the consistency mimicked their other almond milk flavors – lightly rich, like a 2 percent milk – making for a fantastic nog-inspired or nog-flavored almond milk. It is tasty in its own right, gently sweet, perfect for baking, great in coffee and tea, and even splashed over oatmeal, but much lower on the indulgence scale than a classic “nog.” Enjoy it as your holiday milk alternative of choice for a seasonal treat!
Beyond the taste and consistency, I loved that all four varieties had no to very low sugars. I eat enough sweets; the last thing our house needs is sugar in our milk! For those who are concerned about vitamins and minerals, Califia Farms Almondmilk is substantially fortified with calcium, vitamin D (vegan), vitamin E, vitamin B12, and more.
Ingredient Confusion? Beyond the warning about about their new varieties of “Pure” Almondmilk with dairy protein (above), I was initially thrown off by the Califia Farms “Pure” Almondmilk label and odd ingredient statement listing. When I glanced at the back of the Unsweetened bottle, I saw “Ingredients: Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds)”. I immediately got excited thinking “it really is pure almond – no additives!” But when I noticed the high calcium and vitamin D, I questioned how that was possible. What I didn’t initially see was that there are more ingredients, just spaced downward and separated from the two main ingredients. They do indeed have fortification, thickeners, and emulsifiers, but the way Califia Farms lays out the ingredients and uses the “pure almondmilk” title was quite misleading for me.
Dietary Notes: By ingredients, Califia Farms Pure Almondmilk beverages are vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, and soy-free. Nonetheless, check with the company on their manufacturing processes for all varieties if potential allergen cross-contamination is an issue for you. Processes and labeling are subject to change at any time for any company / product.
For More Product Information: Visit the Califia Farms website at www.califiafarms.com.
Top two images from Califia Farms on Facebook! The nog images are from my home!