Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Me: "Excuse me, do you use Bonsoy?"
Sub-standard coffee shop: "No, sorry we use Vitasoy or 'insert random gross brand here'"
Me: /horrified expression

The above conversation is common amongst new cafes and discerning soy drinkers who know what a soy coffee should taste like. The fact is, if you are a cafe and you do not use Bonsoy, you are behind the times.

This is not some marketing gimmick or crazy brand affinity (Though it could very well be, I could spend an entire hour discussing the sexy silky matte yellow box) but rather, it is about the science of how Bonsoy is made and why it is a superior milk to all others. When I walk into a cafe for a coffee, if I see they do not use Bonsoy, I will simply go elsewhere.

Why is Bonsoy worth the extra spend:

  • They use only golden organic soybeans
  • It is the only milk that tastes the closest to cows milk on its own
  • Most importantly, due to its manufacturing process, it is the ONLY soy milk that 'stretches' like cows milk
  • The froth is silky smooth and tastes perfect every time
  • Customers will KNOW a cafe is serious when they see they use Bonsoy - the yellow box is incredibly iconic
  • The milk will not form colloids

As a coffee addict who lives in Paddington, Brisbane, I have tried every single cafe in the area. I know which cafes suck and which don't. I won't go through all of them here, but I will mention a few.  

Plum Tucker on the left, Kettle and Tin on the right. Unfortunately, one ended up in the bin.


Bonsoy: NO  Worth going for vegan-friendly food: YES

Unfortunately, the coffee at Plum Tucker is highly inconsistent and most of the time not great. Today, I bought a large soy latte and yet again, I unfortunately couldn't drink the coffee. It does not help that the person making coffees appeared to be new and not a seasoned barista, but the milk was also sub par. Sadly, I had to throw it away and go get another coffee from Kettle and Tin. 

Last time I had coffee there, it was a similar scenario. The 'froth' on my latte was more like a teenage boys face of exploding moon-crater like pustules. The only redeeming feature of their takeaway coffee is the cute designs on their cups.

Most of their serious competitors in Paddington already use or have recently switched to Bonsoy, so lets hope they see the light. Because other than the coffee, their cafe is really fabulous! Great food, excellent variety for vegans/vegos/meat eaters, amazing smoothies and excellent atmosphere.


Bonsoy: YES   Worth going for vegan-friendly food: NO

I go to Kettle and Tin everyday to get my morning latte. Perfectly frothed, Bear Bones Espresso and skilled baristas make for a perfect coffee every time!

Food wise, well this isn't a food review but their food is great if you're not a vego/vegan. There aren't many options for those of us who don't consume animals and their secretions.


Bonsoy: YES   Worth going for vegan-friendly food: YES 

Sassafras are an iconic Paddington cafe who has been around forever. They're well known in the neighbourhood for their excellent service, great food and great atmosphere. A few months ago I had a Plum Tucker episode where I had to throw the coffee away because it was simply gag worthy, but recently their standard for coffee has gone up and they now not only use a better coffee blend but they also use Bonsoy. I remember walking in there after quite a while and saw my favourite yellow cartons stacked against the wall. My heart just did a hop, skip and a jump - I couldn't believe it! Finally, I could come back to being a Sassafras coffee customer with confidence! My life was set!

My only question mark is their baristas, as there still remains a slight inconsistency with the coffees and the proper manner in which the soy milk should be frothed. But, thats ok, I will let them off the hook ; -)

Food wise, great selections for lunch. They also have some vegan friendly cakes and now offer raw slices, as well!


Bonsoy: NO  Worth going for vegan-friendly food: NO

Though these guys use an inferior milk, their coffee is still better than Plum Tucker! Still, its somewhere I would only go if everything else was closed.

They also advertise themselves as being all gourmet - but really, there is nothing gourmet about the place. I don't know what it is about the cafe, I just never feel compelled to go in. It doesn't have a nice  appealing feel and nothing on the menu to get excited about.

Fundies Wholefood Cafe

Bonsoy: YES  Worth going for vegan-friendly food: YES 

View website

Good old Fundies - a classic - a hero - an icon! Everyone knows and loves Fundies. The overpriced yet still beloved local store and cafe. 

I spend a huge amount of money in this place. It's one of those 'walk in to buy a loaf of bread and walk out having spent $100'. But, onto the cafe. GREAT coffee every time, excellent service, great selection of healthy food with awesome options for vegos and vegans. It is somewhere that is very vegan-centric but not too 'vegany' or 'hippie' so you can bring the family and be assured everyone will love it! 

I keep saying this isn't a food blog, but I seem to be bringing up again and again. Anyway - their tofu scramble is the best thing you will ever eat in your life. It isn't like normal tofu scrambles  - it is melt in your mouth amaze balls with secret amazing ingredients topped with amazing stuff. That is my official review.

I would say best place to go in Brisbane for a vegan-friendly lunch or breakfast. Yes, even better than Green Edge.

Tell me more about why Bonsoy is better

Read full story on the Bonsoy website

There is a lot to be said for proteins. If you have the right ones handy, you can make spider webs, enzymes, even antifreeze and, if you can suspend them in water, a refreshing milky beverage. The trick is to keep them suspended in water.
Proteins are large, bulky, sticky molecules and by rights, they should clump together and drop out of solution. The reason they don’t is that they are covered in charged (positive or negative) chemical groups. The electrostatic charges on the molecules repel each other and they can never get close enough to entangle and clump. When this is the case, protein strands will stay suspended in liquid indefinitely. It’s called a colloid. The protein isn’t dissolved in the water, rather it’s a solid which floats around in it and never settles.
It’s a fine situation for a refreshing milky beverage until you begin to add acid. The proteins in your drink are endowed with an overall negative charge. Acids are strongly positive. As you add more acid to the drink, the acid begins to cancel out the negative charges which are keeping the protein strands apart from each other. The protein strands link up and clump together. And voila, curds and whey. If you were the kind of kid who always wondered what Miss Muffet was eating, let me help you out; the curds are the chunks of coagulated protein and the whey is the watery stuff in between. I wondered for years.
It’s a very useful process if you want to get proteins out of water. Bacteria eat the lactose sugars in milk and excrete lactic acid, and you end up with yoghurt or, eventually, cheese. If you start with soy bean extract, it’s a step on the way to tofu. It’s not so handy if you’re pouring latte art.
In coffee, acid is only half the story. Not only are you adding acid in the form of your espresso brew, but the milk is heated as well. The heat speeds up the process of acid-induced coagulation, but also has its own effects. If you go far enough with your milk steaming, the heat can damage the protein structure (denature it) in a way which makes the clumping problem worse. It’s what you see when you cook an egg and it turns from clear and runny to white and chunky. So if you’re making cheese or tofu, a little acid and heats is OK, I’d even recommend it, but it’s a difficult balance for a smooth soy latte.
Unscrambling the egg
It’s not every day you get a chemistry problem to solve in your coffee, and reports of baristas fighting back tofu in their cups around the nation was too much chemistry for us to resist the challenge. We roasted coffee. We collected soy milk. We bunkered down in the Rockingham cupping lab and we went to work.
First up, we made few basic measurements. We tested the pH of soy milks straight out of the bottle. Then we added measured amounts of acetic acid to samples of each milk and streaked them onto a black sheet to visualise clumping. We certainly got very different results from each of the milks. Some went to yoghurt almost straight away (I’m looking at you So Good), some thickened a little but wouldn’t go fully chunky, even with the addition of lots of acid. I’ve never spent so long peering into coagulated soy milk. It’s not something I want to do again.
Next in line was the coffee. We brewed up a range of our roasts and measured the pH. The results were surprising. The short version is that you can’t reliably predict the acidity of a brew by the taste. Some of our least acid-tasting coffees measured as the most acidic with objective equipment. For these roasts, it seems that the acid in the bean is too well balanced on the palate to perceive it.
Then we put it all together. Shots were poured of both our most and least acidic coffees, and soy milk was steamed and poured into each. Importantly, a milk thermometer was used to keep the micro-foam temperature at a standard 65°C.
The most surprising result was how few of the cups obliged with curds and whey. Only one of the milk brands tested separated to any real extent and the rest held together, even in our most acidic coffee. The milk which did fully separate, did so in all three of the coffees tested. But the separation was worse in the more acid one. It was a surprising result given how often one hears reports of curdling soy milk. I hypothesise that in many of these reports, overheating the milk is a factor. Alternatively, it could be that you’re using Pureharvest Nature’s Soy – whatever that turned to would probably have been delicious with oyster sauce.
The overall lack of curds isn’t to say that all the milks performed equally. Some definitely produced a more even and aesthetically pleasing micro-foam than others. The stand out performers were Bonsoy and Macro Organic Soy Drink. Some might be surprised that the ‘barista quality’ milks we tested were among the worst – they didn’t curdle, but it looked as if it was a real effort for them.
Finally we held the taste test. Have you seen those YouTube clips of babies getting their first taste of lemon? That moment when they realise just how horrible the world can be is comedy gold. You should stop reading right now and google it, or set up a soy milk taste comparison for two people with exquisitely sensitive pallets; it’s basically the same show.
I think the taste testers thought I was trying to poison them – with burnt plasticine and acetone if you believe my cupping notes. Not cool ‘barista quality’ soy. Not cool.
Jen, Chuck, I’m sorry. I never meant for that to happen.
In an amazing stroke of fortune (or design), it turns out that the two most presentable drinks were also the ones which didn’t make anyone dry retch. This is not a product endorsement, but based on this experiment, next time we make a soy coffee, we’ll reach for the Bonsoy first, followed by Macro Organic Soy Drink.
So if you’re having trouble with curds in your soy milk, it might not be the milk which is the problem (unless you are using Pureharvest Nature’s soy, in which case it almost certainly is). Try keeping a better eye on your milk temperature and see if that solves the problem – you may be denaturing your proteins. If your milk still isn’t presentable, try reaching for the two milks which worked best for us, Bonsoy and Macro Organic. If all else fails, we can recommend a lower acid coffee from our range – it’s all in the chemistry!


Dollbaby said...

noooo I love vitasoy calci plus!! that is the BEST as it is soo creamy! What's WRONG with you Amy :P

Amy said...

Calci Plus is not vegan, so it is not included in my evaluations.

However, it does not rate next to Bonsoy anyway.

Dollbaby said...

:( I didn't realise