A Better Almond Milk?

prod-am-unsweetI stopped cold when I saw Califia Farms Almond Milk at Whole Foods yesterday. I’d tasted this brand at Timeless Coffee, a vegan coffee shop in Piedmont, California and it was the best almond milk I’d ever had.

Since taste and health don’t always go hand-in-hand, I read the ingredients. There were two: Filtered water and almonds. I couldn’t believe this. I’d never seen a brand of almond milk without other ingredients including some, like carrageenan, that I didn’t like putting into my body.

When I got home I excitedly told my husband about my find to which he asked, “How much was it?”

“Expensive”, I gingerly said. Then I argued that it tasted better than our usual brand, didn’t have any suspect ingredients and drove my case home with the emotional plea, “You can’t put a price tag on your health.”

My husband was unmoved and we were at odds about which milk to buy from now on when I sat down to write this post. My plan was to ask for your help with our decision (hoping, of course, that you’d side with me!).

However…

When I looked at the Califia Farms Almond Milk bottle just now I noticed a sentence below the ingredient list that read, “Contains less than 2% of the following…” There were additional ingredients listed here, similar to ones I’d seen in other brands (even carrageenan).

Maybe there is a lower percentage of suspect ingredients in Califia Farms Almond Milk than other brands, I’m not sure. I don’t like how they were sneaky with the way they listed these ingredients, however. And knowing this, I can’t bring myself to spend more for this brand. If money were no object, I’d still choose them for taste. But money is an object, so c’est la vie.

Besides, Califia Farms uses plastic bottles and I don’t like that at all!

UPDATE!

My buddy, Cowgirl, shared some important info about carrageenan in Califia Farms almond milk. Here’s what she said:

“I also was curious about their use of carrageenan and went to their web page and read their FAQs. Even though they use carrageenan that they feel is safe based on various sources, they again listened to their customers and are accelerating R&D to find a replacement ingredient. http://www.califiafarms.com/califia-farms-commits-to-replacing-carrageenan-in-all-products/  I thought that was kind of cool.” – Cowgirl

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About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
Aside | This entry was posted in Daily Life, Health, Plant-Based Diet and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to A Better Almond Milk?

  1. Unfortunately those other minor ingredients are necessary to keep the consistency of the milk. Carageenan is a seaweed, so it just depends on the sources.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! I figured that such ingredients must be necessary for some reason, otherwise I’m sure at least one commercial brand wouldn’t use them. Anyway, thanks for the info about carrageenan – I wasn’t aware it came from seaweed. I’ve heard mixed things about it. In a book I read by Andrew Weil, he advised avoiding it. My plant-based nutritionist friend, Katherine, however; told me that she didn’t think it was something to worry about. Do you know how I can find out about the source?

      • I guess you would have to contact the individual companies to see where they get their ingredients. Since carageenen comes from the sea (maybe it’s harvested though) it can’t be labeled organic, only natural just like honey can’t be labelled organic because no one knows exactly what nectar and pollens the bees collect. 🙂

    • More good info – thanks chica!

  2. dropscone says:

    Oh, it’s so gutting when you realise ingredients aren’t what you thought they were! Sorry your lovely almond milk turned out not quite so lovely. Have you tried making your own?

    • Hehe – I’ve thought about it, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I know it’s easy to make, but with my busy schedule it’s that one more thing to do that I can’t seem to add to my to-do list. I should at least try making it and see how it goes. I see that The Vegan 8 posted a recipe below, so maybe I’ll try it. Thanks for your comment!! Celeste 🙂

    • btenoir says:

      It’s so deceiving seeing “organic” and “green” things now . Is it real??? Honestly, I think the marketing (a.k.a cool bottle) behind the product is genius! You should make a post on how to make your own almond milk, sounds like a fun experiment.

  3. Wild Juggler says:

    I may try making my own almond mild some day when I get the right kind of blender or food processor. Till then, I may have a look at this brand.

    • I know that making your own is probably the best way to go, but I just can’t seem to get myself to do it. I’ve got a Vitamix blender, so that not the problem. For me it’s being lazy, pure and simple!!! Anyway, I hope you find this brand in your neck of the woods. It’s pretty darn tasty, especially the vanilla. Celeste 🙂

  4. The vegan 8 says:

    Oh it’s so easy to just make your own and tastes so much better and no bad ingredients! 🙂
    That stinks they were sneaky about the ingredients!
    Here’s how I make mine: http://thevegan8.com/2012/10/22/homemade-almond-milk/

    • I just checked out your recipe and it couldn’t be easier (and the chocolate recipe – yum!). I know I should try it, so we’ll see if I actually get my butt in gear and get some nut bags. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your recipe chica! Celeste 🙂

  5. Rose says:

    Hi Celeste, I’m very new to your blog and just dipping my toe in the veganism pool so I find your posts very interesting. I make my own almond milk because it’s so easy, you just need almonds, water and a blender, my blender is a ten year old Breville domestic model and it works just fine. Besides almond milk being cheap and easy this way the best part is that you get leftover almond meal which I freeze for baking. Sarah Britton has a great one minute video. http://vimeo.com/27840577

  6. bikerchick57 says:

    I stopped drinking chocolate soy milk because of the carageenan. I have been drinking Silk almond milk and I haven’t found this ingredient on the label…unless you know something different?

    • I’ve been hesitant to use carrageenan too because I read a book by Andrew Weil that warned to avoid it. But I’ve heard from other people that it’s not that bad for you. I don’t know if you read Julianne’s comment above where she noted that it comes from seaweed and that you just have to be careful about the source. Anyway, when I’m unsure about an ingredient I like to avoid it just to be safe.

      Enough rambling! As far as Silk almond milk, it’s a popular brand and if the ingredients don’t list carrageenan I believe them (of course, I’m very gullible!). That’s not the brand my husband and I use, so I can’t really comment on it. Maybe I should check it out as a possible alternative to what we’ve been using, however.

      Thanks for your comment chica! Celeste 🙂

      • bikerchick57 says:

        Thanks for the info on the Califa Farms almond milk. I’ve looked at it and thought about buying, but the cost always turned me off. Good to know about the ingredients.

  7. Hi Celeste,
    Great post, because it led me to check out carageenan. Dr. Weil and other experts do not recommend it because of its inflammatory properties. I am very glad to know this and will look for it as an ingrdient in products that I have in my home-more reason to follow a whole food, plant based diet. I have tried making almond milk myself, but it always separates. Will have to keep looking for the perfect recipe. Thanks again,

    Anne

    • I’ve never tried making my own almond milk (in case you didn’t read my comments above, my reason is just that I’m lazy – hehe). I think carrageenan, interestingly, is what they use to thicken it and keep it from separating. I know that homemade almond milk is supposed to separate, but I’m sure that this makes it less appetizing. The Vegan 8 posted a link to her almond milk recipe above, so there’s something to try (for both of us!). Thanks for your comment and let me know if you find the perfect almond milk recipe.

  8. I make my own and it tastes so good. I flavor with vanilla extract and sweeten with a drop of liquid stevia.

    • Hey Debbie! From all the comments I’ve received about people making their own almond milk, I’m getting inspired to try it. The whole nut milk bag thing always made it sound complex to me. I suppose this is mostly because I’ve never seen a nut milk bag and don’t know where to get one. Of course, I’ve never actually searched for one – hehe! Thanks so much for your comment chica. Have a wonderful week! Celeste 🙂

      • dropscone says:

        I think you can find nut milk bags at Wholefoods, but if not you could go the ld fashioned route of sieve lied with muslin or other fine cloth. The vitamix does a pretty good job of pulverising the nuts so it’s just to get a few larger particles out for a smoother texture.

    • I don’t think this reply is going to go in the right place, but just wanted to thank you for the head’s up about the nut milk bag. I’ll check at Whole Foods. Celeste 🙂

  9. This is a really interesting post! You are right to consider everything about the brand! 🙂

  10. dianaveggienextdoor says:

    I agree – its deceptive! Thankfully I realized when I first saw the product debut so I never bought it but the word “pure” on their label really angers me! My favorite is Edensoy Organic Unsweetened in the shelf stable cartons – rich, creamy and just soy beans and water. Westsoy also makes a cheaper version though theirs isn’t as creamy.

    • Hey chica! You’re so good to have noticed ALL the ingredients right away. I think part of the reason I missed the “extra ingredients” is that I wanted to believe that it was just almonds and water. But you can’t always get what you want!

      Anywho, thanks for the soy milk suggestions. I’ve seen Edensoy before, so maybe I’ll give them a try. Have a lovely week! Celeste 🙂

  11. Ralph says:

    Hi Celeste 😀 I would be in big trouble as I thought the bottle was shampoo 😉 Ralph xox 😀

  12. carolatic says:

    Wow! I’ve never heard of this milk brand. I miss grocery shopping in my sunny San Diego.
    I also can’t believe the way they “tricked” you with the ingredients. I must say that it was very smart of them to do it that way. It would’ve been surprising for a brand to sell completely pure and raw almond milk without it going bad in 2 days.
    At least you got to try a new brand 🙂 now you have even more knowledge and the taste buds grew even more! Yay!

    • Thanks so much for your comment chica! And I SO get why you miss shopping in San Diego. Anyway, I’m beginning to accept that if I want completely pure and raw almond milk I’m gonna have to make it myself. You’re right, it would be impossible for a company to sell pure almond milk because it would spoil so quickly. I’m glad I wrote this post because it’s nudging me toward making my own almond milk. I really think I’m gonna do it – it can’t be that hard. Have a lovely week! Celeste 🙂

  13. I have the same problem! One of my favorite brands of almond milk has nothing but almonds, water, and honey. It’s delicious. But so so so expensive. I’ve made almond milk at home, which is wonderful, but really time consuming. The quest continues I guess…

    • Wouldn’t it be nice if we just had all the time in the world to do all the things we wanted to do? I guess we have to pick our poison – questionable stuff in our almond milk, or less time for other stuff. Hmmmm… When I say it like that it makes me want to at least try making my own almond milk. At least you’ve tried it, I think I have to do as much. Good luck with your quest in this matter too chica! Celeste 🙂

  14. No way!! I love this stuff! (Good thing I can only get it occasionally when we drive into OKC. Have you tried the Toasted Coconut?!) I was so very impressed by that list of ingredients, but apparently, I wasn’t paying enough attention. Thank you, Celeste, for taking a closer look! Deceptive, indeed.

  15. nobeefhere says:

    No way. I have to try this. I know what I will be buying at the supermarket. I rarely consume almond milk unless it’s in my tea, sometimes my smoothies but I may have an excuse to use it even more with this! Thank you for sharing!

    • If it’s for your tea or for a smoothie, I recommend the Vanilla or maybe try the Toasted Coconut that Annie recommended above. The plain is fine, but the flavored ones are out of this world! Have a great week! Celeste 🙂

  16. Lauren says:

    Celeste, I know it’s a little bit of work, but it’s not that hard to make your own almond milk. I have a recipe for it on my blog http://thenontoxiclife.wordpress.com/?s=almond+milk

  17. Lauren says:

    Oops, I just read that you are lazy 🙂 and don’t make your own. What about Pacific hemp milk? It does not have carrageenan in it.

    • Hey Lauren! I’ve seen your recipe, and seriously thought about trying it, but… I have to admit that after reading so many comments from people who make their own almond milk I’m getting closer to taking the plunge and making my own.

      I’ve never tried hemp milk, but that’s something to consider too. Thanks for the suggestion! Have a fab week chica! Celeste 🙂

  18. Poppy says:

    Oh Celeste, that sounds really annoying and really sneaky of the company to use the small print trick even on ingredients! I get what you mean in an earlier comment about making your own being ‘another thing to do’, I’m the same. I’m trying to encourage myself to make one batch at the weekend that would last through the week. I do make it now and again and it’s far superior to any I’ve bought at both ends of the price spectrum. To be honest, I’m unsure why they even need to add those ingredients when you don’t need it at home and carageenan doesn’t extend shelf life, only stabilize and that’s nothing a little shake before using can’t achieve! If it was me, I’d keep the expensive one as a treat!! 😀

    • Yea, I was pretty frustrated when I noticed the “extra” ingredients. Anyway, I’m feeling more and more close to taking the plunge and making my own almond milk. I think the hardest part for me is doing it the first time. If I can just do it and realize that it isn’t too difficult, then I’ll be fine. So maybe one day soon! Have a great week Poppy! Celeste 🙂

      • Poppy says:

        I know what you mean about doing it the first time. Maybe just try making a small batch at first, then you can play with it and adjust it to your liking with sweetness or not.
        Thank you, you have a great week too 😀

  19. Faced with the poor choice of non-dairy, plant based milks, I am thinking of buying a milk maker. It is really hard to find a good, plant based milk that doesn’t contain lots of ingredients that only chemist or Google can tell you what they are! 🙂

    • I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a milk maker. Interesting! Please keep me updated if you do get one and let me know how it works out for you. Have a great week! Celeste 🙂

  20. ‘Pure’ in giant letters as well, mmm…

  21. mlipko says:

    OK, now I have to try this brand and see how good it tastes. I never even considered making my own, hmmm.

  22. Maybe try making your own and then see how the taste compares? I agree with you about the sneakiness and the plastic bottle, there’s always something…😕

    • I’m leaning toward making my own Elaine. I know it’s not that hard, but I just don’t want to mess up my routine by adding another thing to do. I’ve got to get my lazy butt in gear and just do it! Hope you’re having a great week! Celeste 🙂

  23. Gallivanta says:

    Oh, the fine print! Half the time it is so fine I can’t read it, even with my glasses on.

  24. stacilys says:

    Wow, that is sneaky of them. Don’t you hate dishonesty and deception?
    I made my own almond milk for the first time in my life on Sunday. One cup of almonds soaked in filtered water overnight. Then I drained them and put them in a blender with 4 cups of filtered water and let it rip. Once done I strained them into a glass jug with lid and had a liter of almond milk ready. Good for about 4 days. I dehydrated the left over almond meal for using afterwards.
    I hear you though about now wanting to mess up routine by adding yet another thing to do (as you commented above.)
    Blessings =)
    Staci

    • That’s awesome that you made your own almond milk chica! Thanks for sharing – it sounds SO easy. It seems like a lot of people do it, so I don’t know why I’m so resistant to it. One of these days I’m gonna break down and just do it. You’ll see! Hope you’re having a lovely week! Celeste 🙂

  25. sophiazerg says:

    I spent my lunch discussing almond milk with friends today. 😉 For the longest time, I was drinking a brand of almond milk which tasted just okay…but I thought that’s as good as it gets. Then I switched brands (Almond Fresh) and wow, what a difference. Although I was never able to find any without carageenan, which sucks. The all time BEST that I’ve ever had is homemade. I chug it! Haha. I have a recipe and it’s very simple, if you’re interested in checking it out. Try homemade at least once to see how delicious it is! And without carageenan, all that happens is the water and milk kinda seperates, so you just need to give it a little shake. I really, really do not like the fact that the ingredients were ‘hidden’ on the label of the one you bought. Anyone would make the mistake in thinking it’s just almonds and water. Not cool!

  26. carmen says:

    Hmmm? That is somewhat deceptive, but I s’pose clever marketing. I think I’ll go check what’s in my almond milk.

    ♥ carmen

  27. Hi Celeste! Happy New Year. 🙂

    Your post made me think that I’d read the name “Califia” somewhere before and low and behold, there was a recent dust-up when a vegan grocer purchased some of their product only to discover that it carried whey protein! It was in some of their flavored almond milk I believe and luckily the animal-based protein ingredient was discovered before the grocer sold any. In any case, even though the packaging didn’t state vegan, the company listened to the outcry from vegan customers wanting the flavored versions to be vegan and guess what? They listened! They are working on sourcing plant-based protein and updating their labels.

    I also was curious about their use of carrageenan and went to their web page and read their FAQs. Even though they use carrageenan that they feel is safe based on various sources, they again listened to their customers and are accelerating R&D to find a replacement ingredient. http://www.califiafarms.com/califia-farms-commits-to-replacing-carrageenan-in-all-products/ I thought that was kind of cool.

    And I totally understand feeling deceived by the small print on the other ingredients. I think that because ingredients are listed in the order of percentage used, they probably wanted to highlight that almonds and filtered water make up the large majority of their milk to justify the cost. It would have been more upfront if they simply added the copy about less than 2% in the same size font before listing the other ingredients.

    Making homemade almond milk is easy (and kind of fun) with a high speed blender, but sometimes convenience wins out. I haven’t tried Califia almond milk and probably never would have since it seems the consensus is that it is expensive. But based on your taste recommendation, the fact that they are GMO certified, and that they seem proactive about meeting the needs of their customers, I think I may splurge at least once and give them a try when their new carrageenan-free formula comes out. . 🙂 Thanks for your post.

    P.S. Timeless Coffee is where Colleen Patrick Goudreau has brunch every Sunday. I went once while visiting my brother (not to stalk her, just for food. LOL). I got up early and drove 45 minutes because I was dying to eat at an all vegan restaurant after a week in his small town. He couldn’t believe I got up early and drove that far for vegan food. I thought of you and your hubby and your trips to LA, SD, and your out of state travels and giggled to myself thinking, you have no idea what we’ll do. I think of it as an adventure. 😉

    • Great to hear from you Cowgirl! And OMG, what an awesome comment!!!!! I had not heard about the Califa Farms whey incident, but I love that the company listened and addressed the problem. And I’m excited to hear that they are searching for a suitable alternative to carrageenan too – that’s exciting! I’m going to add a follow up note on this post with the info you shared Cowgirl – I think it’s important. I still don’t know that we’ll buy the product regularly after they replace the carrageenan, but maybe.

      I’ve heard from so many people now about how easy it is to make almond milk that I’m determined to try it. I know it’s easy, but I’ve got a block against it (kind of like my podcast block). Sometimes I’m resistant to change!

      I had no idea that Timeless Coffee is Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s Sunday brunch hangout. I didn’t even realize they had brunch! My husband and I just checked it out because we read on Yelp that it was a vegan coffee house. We’ve only been to one other strictly vegan coffee house, Free Soul Caffe in Tustin. Did you go while Colleen was there? That would be pretty cool!! You may not be a stalker, but I’d sure like to go while she’s there!

      By the way, my hubby and I almost invited you to go to coffee with us in LA this Saturday, but we decided it would be too much for us to take the time to stop there. We’re driving through LA to deal with some stuff at our rental house in Oxnard. I think about you often chica and hope we can get together again soon. Celeste 🙂

  28. Sophie33 says:

    I prefer home-made nut or seed milks, that is way better in consistendcy, flavour & you can add whatever you want like dates to sweeten, vanilla, maca powder, superfoods etc!

  29. the vegan style revivalist says:

    One of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt through veganism is to ‘READ THE INGREDIENT LIST’. Thank you for highlighting this!

  30. Have to question everything on the grocery shelf to be safe.
    Thank you for subscribing to my site! Eddie

  31. Michael Lane says:

    You’re right, it is the best-tasting almond milk there is, but oh-so-pricey, and also no organic version of it, which is not good. I drink Whole Foods organic almond milk, but yeah–it has other stuff in it as well.

  32. Watch out for their little individual size protein shakes too. The packaging looks exactly the same as the pic you’ve posted here (says “50% more calcium than milk” and everything), but it contains whey and casein.

  33. trinity says:

    I’m extremely late but since the comments weren’t closed I figured id post. I love trader Joe’s almond milk. No carageenan. If you have one near you try it.

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