At strangers we're all about the coffee, normally, but this post is about the milk we use every day and which makes up around 85% of each latte, cappuccino, mocha, hot chocolate we make.
Some of you will know how particular I am about this topic mainly about its temperature in the drinks we serve or it's fat content, but it's always fresh as possible, 4% fat unless our customer asks for skimmed or almond.
However, of late, we've had a problem with our current supply of milk, barely noticeable to our customers but silently driving me crazy behind the espresso machine, or not so silently depending who's reading.
I've been making coffee for some years now, with a focus on detail, education and experimentation, exploring the complex world of coffee and barely a step on the way, but I can still normally texture milk into a beautiful, silky, sweet liquid which blends harmoniously with our espresso of choice almost intuitively.
But something had happened, instead of the beautifully shiny glossy milk with almost zero bubbles after texturing of that which we're used to, I'm instead left with an eruption of large bubbles rising to the surface destroying it's texture and sheen. The microfoam seems to instantaneously collapse and the moisture separate out making pouring lattes and cappuccino with any kind of reasonable art an issue. So what is it, have I lost my touch? Forgotten everything I've learnt? Is my coffee machine broken?
Now this was only happening intermittently on various batches of milk from our usual supplier, arriving daily over December and early January, most of which was unusable and returned meaning we were topping up from the local supermarket.
All the milk from the supermarket had no problem which meant there was an issue with our usual supplier, but what's actually wrong with it?
As soon as this question was asked I realised how difficult it is to answer, short of the usual in house checks, dates, refrigeration, temps, etc, all fine. I then started questioning our supplier, what was happening before it got to us? their storage, etc, but where do you stop, even the cows diet and changing seasons will effect the final milk quality which is produced and without careful observation changes in quality can be missed.
The journey of milk from cow to cafe can be huge and at any stage something can happen to cause damage to the milk, we may not of found out what was causing the problem to ours but we have changed our milk supply.
I'm pleased to say we are now using milk produced by 3 small, quality focused dairy farms in east anglia, meaning we have full traceability of all the milk we use direct to the farm and any future issues are much less likely to happen as it's journey is that much shorter.
The best thing of all though is that it tastes great and we're supporting local uk dairy farmers hopefully helping to secure the survival of this struggling industry locally.