“Excuse me, but do you use Bonsoy?” It’s a question baristas everywhere recognise as the plaintive call of the soy-latte crowd, backed by the fact that many soy drinkers would rather order a long black than drink a coffee made on any other soymilk.
“A lot of people ask specifically if we use Bonsoy,” says Alex Anderson of Kensington’s The Premises. “And if you’re a soy drinker hopefully you’re discerning enough to know the difference. It’s an industry standard now.” At least for cafes who take their coffee seriously.
So is Bonsoy really that much better than the other soymilks when it comes to making coffee? “We use it for a couple of reasons,” says Anderson. “It tastes the best and it’s the easiest to work with from the barista point of view. It’s easy to steam and get a reasonable texture. No soy is easy, but you get a better result in the cup from Bonsoy, and how it reacts with the coffee.”
Raphaelle Wilson of Spiral Foods (who import Bonsoy from Japan) has had similar comments. “The feedback we’ve had is that it has an almost perfect ‘stretch’, meaning that it’s a dream to pour and make patterns with.”
But for Wilson the irony is that Bonsoy was not originally designed for cafe use, rather the grade of soybean. Generations of accumulated soy knowledge and a slower cooking and production process results in a combined taste and mouth feel of unique richness. “Bonsoy is made to deliver an excellent source of vegetable protein,” says Wilson. “It was never specifically made for the cafe or coffee market, it just happened that Bonsoy ended up making a great latte without curdling or having a beanie flavour when heated.”
For Kylie Mackinlay of South Melbourne’s Dead Man Espresso the choice to use Bonsoy is as simple as providing what the soy-drinking customer wants. “'I’ve found that the majority of soy drinkers prefer Bonsoy for its taste,” she says – regardless of how well it behaves in the cup.