Good news for anyone who either doesn't or can't drink cow's milk: Starbucks is rolling out coconut milk in stores nationwide really, really soon, finally giving you all a non-dairy alternative that isn't soy-based. Hoorah! Coconut-flavored goodies for all!
We first heard that the mighty 'Bux was testing out coconut milk in a handful of stores back in September. By October, the coffee chain had noted on its blog that the Oregon and Cleveland tests were overwhelmingly successful — so successful, in fact, that they were starting to bring it to other markets, as well. Today we finally received word that "other markets" now means "all markets nationwide"; what's more, Starbucks Melody reported that it will be arriving less than two weeks from now on February 17. The suggestion of bringing a non-dairy, non-soy milk alternative to the chain, by the way, is officially the most popular My Starbucks idea of all time. Well done, everyone who backed it! You made it happen by sheer force of will! Time to do your happy dance!
So why has Starbucks sprung for coconut milk rather than following Dunkin' Donuts' lead and going for almond milk? One reason and one reason alone: Allergies. According to the organization FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), approximately 3 million people in the United States are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts (and yes, I know that peanuts aren't nuts — they're legumes — but work with me, here). Given that the U.S. has a total population of around 316 million, that number may seem like small potatoes — but it's a high enough number to be cause for concern. Coconuts, meanwhile, are classified as a fruit, even though the FDA recognizes them as a tree nut (why? No idea. Sorry). The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology notes that while some allergic reactions to coconuts have been documented, most people with tree nut allergies can safely eat them. Note, though, that I am definitely not a doctor; if you have a nut allergy and you want to add coconut to your diet, talk to your actual doctor first.
Anyhoo, the upshot of all this information is that accidental contamination in Starbucks locations due to almond milk is a lot more likely to result in allergic reactions than it will with coconut milk; as such, it's a safer option overall. Besides, it does tick off all the necessary boxes: It's a non-dairy alternative to cow's milk; it's also a non-dairy option that isn't soy; and it's not too likely to cause life-threatening allergic reactions in coffee-loving customers. Everyone wins.
Happy coffee-ing, everyone!