When temperatures and humidity rise and it seems like thrice-a-day showers aren’t enough to keep cool, it is downright ridiculous to get your caffeine fix from a hot beverage. While we all know in the back of our heads that we need to curb our caffeine intake for a number of health reasons, sometimes coffee is the only one that gets the job done (a green smoothie’s a good energy beverage as well, but that’s a love story for another day).
The solution to a caffeine beverage that won’t leave you in a sweat? Iced coffee. Now I love tea to bits and to be honest, tea is my non-water beverage of choice. Coffee and I used to have a great love affair a couple of years ago until a brewed Starbucks venti that was supposed to be decaf turned rogue and left me with heart palpitations akin to what one feels when experiencing unrequited love. Long story short, I broke off my relationship with coffee. I used to be a black-coffee-no-milk-no-sugar kind of girl but found a more rewarding, meaningful relationship with tea – which is a second love story for another day.
I have to confess that I’ve had the occasional tryst with soy lattes because unlike treacherous black coffee, I’m not left with heartache post-consumption. My love for the latte was rekindled in New York over the summer of 2010: I used to work in a raw vegan restaurant in the Grammercy area of Manhattan and fell quite head over heels with the iced soy lattes at 71 Irving, a killer coffee shop with a killer source of coffee beans. It was an expensive affair though – a 12 oz. cup was about $4.00 plus the soymilk tax.
If you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or just plain adventurous with your milk choices, you know about the soy milk tax – that damn fee coffee shops charge you for requesting soymilk in your beverage instead of dairy milk. Here in the Philippines the tax is P20, which is INSANE considering that a liter of vacuum-packed soymilk goes for about P56, at par with the price of a liter of vacuum-packed, questionably-sourced dairy milk. The soymilk tax in the US is $0.50. A locally available decent latte is expensive enough at P90 a pop sans soymilk tax (Starbucks green tea latte is about P110!).
Anyway, back to waxing poetry about that New York soy latte – if you’ve never experienced a New York summer, you’re not missing much. It’s basically hot and humid Manila summer with sunsets at 8:30pm (so the heat lasts longer, especially in the subway stations), without decent beaches anywhere (contrary to popular belief, Coney Island is not and will never be a decent beach – sorry), and with more expensive everything. Back then, an iced soy latte was the perfect way to cool down before being attacked by the heat of a professional kitchen, while being bled dry at $4.50 a pop. But let me just say – 71 Irving Place iced soy lattes are worth their expense. If you find yourself in Manhattan, do pass by that coffeeshop and treat yourself to a latte. They also have vegan pastries on the menu!
I knew I couldn’t depend on 71 Irving for my iced latte fix forever, though. Back then, I believed that a latte was only possible with espresso. SO WRONG! I learned how to make a decent iced latte in the cafeteria of the student apartment I was housed at. That cafeteria had a machine that served coffee with the power to drill holes in one’s stomach lining. With a good dose of milk, however, that coffee was digestible and, dare I say it, even quite enjoyable. And it didn’t cost $4.50 either.
What I’d like to share with you, dear readers, is my love for the home-brewed iced soy latte. You don’t need fancy espresso beans, an espresso machine, or a coffee machine. I actually wouldn’t recommend a traditional coffee machine because you need the beans to steep in hot water for a couple of minutes – not slowly and merrily drip through the beans. I’m no coffee connoisseur but an espresso machine uses steam pressure to force water through the beans, resulting in a deeper, earthier flavor. The same result can be achieved with a French press, a fine mesh sieve, or a cheese-cloth lined sieve.
The best part about home-brewed iced lattes? You’re not paying a coffee shop P110 to enjoy a cup of it.
Homemade iced latte
Gluten-free, soy-free, and / or nut-free depending on your non-dairy milk
Makes 1 serving
2-4 tbsp ground coffee beans (this would depend on the quality and strength of your beans. Now is your chance to break out locally-grown Cordillera Arabica. Please do NOT used instant coffee.)
1/4 cup boiling water
3-4 ice cubes
1 cup cold non-dairy milk of choice (soy, cashew, almond, or coconut)
- Place the ground coffee in the French press and pour in the boiling water. Let steep for about 2-3 minutes, then press.
- Place ice cubes in a mug and pour in the coffee.
- Slowly pour in the cold milk (cold soymilk + hot coffee occasionally result in curds, so do pour slowly!).
- Mix well and enjoy! Feel free to mix in a packet of stevia or a drizzle of agave. If you’re using a dry sweetener like muscovado or coconut sugar, mix it with the hot coffee before pouring in the milk.
If you’re French press-less, steep the beans in water in a separate bowl or cup for 2-3 minutes. Strain into your drinking mug using a fine mesh sieve or cheese-cloth lined sieve.