The Sweet Meadow


Something has been pissing me off lately.

drinksAishe Besim
I became a vegan the day I watched a video of a calf being born on a factory farm. The baby was dragged away from the mother before he hit the ground. The helpless calf strained its head backwards to find his mother. The mother bolted after her son and exploded into a rage when the rancher slammed the gate on her. She wailed the saddest noise I’d ever head an animal make, and then thrashed and...dug into the ground, burying her face in the muddy placenta. I had no idea what was happening respecting brain chemistry, animal instinct, or whatever. I just knew that this was deeply wrong. I just knew that such suffering could never be worth the taste of milk and veal. I empathised with the cow and the calf and, in so doing, my life changed.
— James McWilliams

I should start with the positives first though. I have been so overwhelmed with the number of people who have visited The Sweet Meadow since we opened the cafe on October 20. I was having nightmares no one would show up, so to see lots of familiar faces 8 weeks in (some have been coming in since the first day we opened), makes me super happy.

What I've found interesting is that while most people are open to the idea of having a breakfast or lunch meal without any meat, cheese or eggs, convincing them to try a coffee without dairy milk is a much harder sell, even when we offer the best (and most expensive) soy milk as our base milk alternative at no extra cost. 

I was told that people would walk out when they find out they can't have dairy milk with their coffee and they're right - some people do walk out. Despite this, I have no plans to start serving dairy milk with coffee. We are a plant-based HEALTH bar. Dairy milk is NOT a HEALTH food. It's extremely acidic for our bodies and no wonder, it's designed to feed baby calves, not adult humans! 

I've been reading and listening to Dr. Michael Klaper lately, who grew up on a dairy farm and began milking cows when he was 8 years old. He calls dairy milk " calf growth fluid. Everything in that white liquid - the hormones, the lipids, the proteins, the sodium...are all there to start that calf growing into a great big cow....It's great stuff if you are a baby calf, but if you are a human trying to create a lean, healthy body, it will NOT do a body good."

Nutritionist Kimberly Synder also raises some good points here

I laugh to myself when people ask me why we don't have any "normal" milk available. It seems so abnormal to me that people drink milk from another species. The human body has no more need for cow's milk than it does for dog's milk, horse's milk or giraffe's milk. 

I also find it funny when people question where we vegans get our calcium from. I tell them it's the same place the cow gets their calcium from (because of course, grown cows don't drink their own milk) - plants! Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, along with almonds, soy-based products and fruit (figs, dates, blackberries) are all high in calcium, and are digested better by the human body too.

What I also find interesting is that so many people actually enjoy their soy-based coffee drink. Not just tolerate it, but enjoy it. A few customers have even said that if we hadn't told them it wasn't dairy milk they wouldn't even have known.

In one of my videos I talk about there being "something for everyone" at The Sweet Meadow. These last few weeks of trade have made me realise that I don't believe this anymore. If people want eggs and bacon for breakfast, there's nothing we can offer that will satisfy this craving. If people refuse to try a plant-based milk alternative with their coffee drink, then we will refuse to serve them. 

While there are a few vegetarian/wholefood cafes scattered across regional Victoria, we are the only vegan cafe outside of Melbourne or Geelong. For a community of around 15,000 people, that is huge! A big thank you to the majority of you who are open-minded and interested in learning more about plant-based eating.

Think before you drink.

I have a latte on my mind

drinksAishe Besim
The training room at Allpress HQ in Collingwood, Melbourne

The training room at Allpress HQ in Collingwood, Melbourne

I tried my first cup of coffee in March this year. Before that, I never understood what the fascination was and was pretty adamant that I would not be serving coffee at The Sweet Meadow

Everyone had been telling me I was crazy if I didn't have coffee on the menu. I kept thinking, why would you want coffee when you can have a fresh juice or smoothie blend to give you instant energy?! If Boost Juice stores can thrive without coffee then surely The Sweet Meadow can too!

I stuck to my guns until one sunny February afternoon when I was sitting in a historic bakery in Trentham, Victoria waiting for my meal to arrive. Across from our table was a young couple who were both eating salads. I thought to myself, "That's the kind of customer that will come to The Sweet Meadow." A second later, a staff member brought over two lattes to their table. That was all it took. The next day I started researching coffee roasters in Melbourne and headed across to Byron Bay soon after to find out what all the cool kids were using. 

I talked to a few roasters but as soon as I walked into Allpress Espresso back in Collingwood, Melbourne, I knew I found the right coffee makers for me. The crew live and breathe coffee and their attention to detail is second to none. Their roasting team work direct with farmers in various regions throughout South and Central America, Africa and Indonesia. They single out growers who care about sustainability and good agricultural practice and also strive for a zero-waste facility at their Melbourne roastery (they provide local gardens like Ceres Environmental Park with the chaff removed from the coffee beans during the roasting process to richen up their soil, for example). 

I also love the fact that they don't have wifi at their cafes. In their words, "We want our Roastery Cafes to be a place to meet; a place to step away from your desk and to get your head out of the digital clouds. We want our customers to connect to the space we have built..." Food for thought!

I've been asked whether I'll be serving "normal" coffees instore (translation: coffees made with dairy milk). The short answer? Nope.

Dairy milk may froth up and gloss up better than plant-based milks, but that doesn't change the fact that it's perfect for baby cows, not so much for adult humans. I've written about my stance on dairy before but to reiterate, I don't think it is anything close to being a health food.

If you ever come across a copy of the book Skinny Bitch, read Chapter 5 and see if your stance on dairy changes. As authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin write,

Mother Nature is no fool. All species, including ours, have just what we need to get by. She did not intend for grownups to suck their mothers’ tits. We don’t need our mothers’ milk as adults, just like grown cows don’t need their mothers’ milk anymore. We are the only species on the planet that drinks milk as adults. We are also the only species on the planet that drinks the milk of another species. The dairy industry is a multibillion-dollar industry based on brilliant marketing and the addictive taste of milk, butter, and cheese. It has convinced most doctors, consumers, and government agencies that we need cows’ milk. We have been told our whole lives, “You need milk to grow. Without milk, your bones will break. If you don’t drink milk, you’ll get osteoporosis. You need the calcium.” Bullshit.

Luckily, there are many alternatives to dairy products. We will offer soy, almond and coconut alternatives. You'll feel so good dairy-free you won't even know yourself! Soy good :)