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MILKING AN ALMOND

Sacramento-area baristas are nuts over locally produced almond milk.

WRITTEN BY EDIE BAKER

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Blue Diamond Almonds' Sacramento plant. Photo courtesy of Blue Diamond Almonds

More people are drinking dairy-free alternative milk than ever before. It’s an era of choice. In cafés, the offerings may include hemp, soy, coconut, macadamia, oat, and almond. The fastest-growing plant-based alternative is almond milk. For a barista to create a beautiful drink with latte art, the milk needs to have a certain amount of proteins in order to steam without separating. And, of course, it needs to taste great. Almond Breeze Barista Blend milk works on both counts, which is why in some cafés it has completely replaced soy and other alternative milks.

Those of us working in the coffee culture know that the origin of coffee affects its quality, taste, and sustainability. And those of us living in Greater Sacramento enjoy a healthy, farm-to-fork lifestyle and the opportunity to meet our food producers weekly at local farmers’ markets.

Now we are fortunate to have this benefit with our almond milk, too, thanks to Sacramento-based Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze Barista Blend, produced specifically for baristas and made by a co-op of California producers. The blend is local, sustainable, and delicious. Almond Breeze offers an advantage over other almond milks: It is made with 25 percent more almonds (thus, it has more protein). Use of a single-variety almond that undergoes a special blanching process to remove the skin makes Almond Breeze a more consistent product than other nondairy milks on the market, which baristas appreciate.

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An almond flat white drink at Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters, made with Almond Breeze Barista Blend. Photo by Andy Baker

Cracking into food service

Sacramento’s own internationally renowned Blue Diamond Almonds has been producing delicious almonds from passionate growers, as its motto says, for more than a century. Almonds have been grown in the Sacramento Valley since 1850, when it was discovered that the soil and Mediterranean climate here are ideal conditions for producing the nut. By 1910, 230 producers had come together to form the California Almond Growers Exchange. By creating this co-op, they made the Sacramento area an international leader in almond production.

In 1915, the exchange, which was known for its strict quality assessment standards, adopted the blue diamond (the rarest diamond in the world) as its symbol, representing the highest quality, and in 1980, the exchange officially became known as Blue Diamond Growers.

Comprised of more than 3,000 almond growers, the exchange has led the way in advanced manufacturing, turning raw almonds into snacks, beverages, and ingredients that are sold in more than 80 countries. Passionate growers, mechanical innovations, and grower-focused marketing are part of this amazing story.

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An almond tree during the hull-split phase, just prior to harvest time.
Photo courtesy of Blue Diamond

The key to developing new products is innovation, which is done here in Sacramento at the world’s first and only Almond Innovation Center. Research revealed, for the first time, exponential growth in the almond milk retail market during the last five years, with almond milk being favored 70 percent over soy, making it the top-selling nondairy milk.

“If this was the trend in retail, what about food service?” asks Jim Lardy, director of food service at Blue Diamond Growers. “This drove us to develop the Almond Breeze Barista Blend, working from the consumer back to the scientists … We brought baristas in to get feedback throughout the development stages, which helped us fine-tune the formula, so it was functional (or could steam) and would taste great.”

Today you can ask for Almond Breeze Barista Blend in Sacramento cafés. It’s creamy and delicious, and your latte art will look just as beautiful as it does with traditional milk.

Edie Baker owns Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters in Sacramento with her husband, Andy. A coffee lover for life, she’s always learning more about coffee from the seed to the cup and is eager to share this knowledge with everyone. Her motto is, “Drink the best and drink often!”

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Some nutty facts

- A handful of almonds contains protein, fiber, unsaturated fat, vitamin E, calcium (75 milligrams per ounce), and other essential vitamins and minerals.

- California is the only place Almond Breeze Barista Blend is made.

- Blue Diamond’s developments are consumer driven — next up is Barista Blend Coconut Almond.

For details about Blue Diamond Almonds, visit Bluediamond.com.

Blue Diamond Nut and Gift Shop

1701 C St., Sacramento • 916-446-8438

For details about local almond growers, visit Bluediamondgrowers.com

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