Coffee made with camel milk is being sold for what's thought to be the first time in the UK. Could it catch on, asks Jon Kelly.
"A Camelatte, please," one asks the barista. Somehow the Camelccino sounds less enticing. Most people in the West will never have knowingly tasted the dairy product of this even-toed ungulate, but on a cold February morning the drink is like an oasis to a thirsty man in the desert. It has a pleasantly surprising nutty, smoky, slightly Bratwursty flavour. "A few people have said it goes well with a mocha - the savoury thing works well with the caramel thing," says Richard Ford, a food journalist with The Grocer magazine, who had the idea of bringing the milk to two branches of coffee chain Taylor Street Baristas, in Brighton and London's Bank area, in aid of Farm Africa. Ford is running the Brighton marathon to raise funds for the development charity and wanted an eye-catching way to draw attention to his efforts.
Judging by the queue at the counter in London's financial district, he may have succeeded. But while it's a novelty in the UK, camel milk is widely served in coffee in the United Arab Emirates. That's where this batch of milk came from - in 2013 the UAE won approval from the European Commission to import dairy products to Europe, and the Dubai brand Camelicious announced it would target EU markets. The product is popular across the rest of the Middle East and North and East Africa, too, and importers say its health benefits - it is rich in iron, with half the fat and up to five times the Vitamin C of cow's milk - could one day make it a hit in the West.
One question occurs about production. How exactly do you milk such a mighty beast without risking a cloven hoof to the head? "They are very gentle animals, and they are trained from an early age so they don't become afraid during milking," insists Ford. But you'd have to be a big fan of cafe au ship of the desert to try the milking for yourself.