A trip to Milk Origin – Mill King Market and Creamery Pt. 2

IMG_0659Part 1 can be found here…

Small herd, stress free environment, and chemical free are all variables that affect the quality of the milk that goes into our favorite espresso drink. While it sounds like the cows at Craig Miller’s Mill King dairy farm have it easy Craig himself does not. “Me and my mom each put in around 100 hours a week,” he explains as he points out his mom taking a break outside one of the barns. They have a handful of employees and Craig, up to recently, has been doing the selling, marketing, and delivery as well as run the farm and work alongside his employees. “It’s getting better though, because I can get 8 hours a sleep now. Just not in a row,” he adds. “My day starts at 2 in the morning when we load trucks, and then I take a nap, then get back up for the morning meeting with the process crew, then I’ll work with them for a while, and then go take another nap. Then get up and do office work and go take another nap.  It hasn’t been a walk in the park but going into it we knew it would be hard work. But we are workaholics anyway.”

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So much hard work is put into the care of the cows it seems logical to do the same for the milk. To prepare the milk for consumption the pasteurization process that they use is a low temp process that lasts for 30 minutes and unlike other dairies they do not homogenize it. As he walks me through the facility where the milk is processed he tells me it makes a big difference. “The pasteurization difference doesn’t kill off all the natural enzymes in milk that help you digest not only lactose but red meat and fiber. Real milk will help you burn calories throughout the day. False milk will not. Homogenizing restructures the sugars into complex forms that our bodies don’t process. And so if our bodies doesn’t process it doesn’t get out of our system and ends up places it doesn’t need to be.”

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The final product is sold in farmers markets in Austin and in Whole Foods here in Houston. In nearby Waco the new and popular coffee shop Dichotomy uses his milk also. What ends up in the coffee shops is a different blend though. Just as many coffee’s are a blend of different regions, cows milk is a blend of different types of cows. Craig tells me that the way the milk is blended directly affects the taste and texture of the milk as well.  Their regular milk is about 1/3 blend of each of the type of cows that they have, but the coffee shop version is a special blend that David Buhrer from Greenway Coffee requests from them. “We have Barista blend; it has milk fat that David specifically asks for.  If he wants a little more or little less, we make it exactly to what his specifications are. That way when he textures milk it comes out just like he wants it.

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All of these ingredients : the care of the cows, the handling of the milk, and the blending all combine to help create what your latte will taste and look. Milk that is creamy and tastes good enhances your drink, especially when paired with an expertly pulled shot. The right amount of fat and protein make it easier for baristas to texturize or steam the milk and makes it possible to create latte art.

So, the next time you enjoy that perfect Latte, Cortado, or just add milk to your coffee take a second to remember the origin. Just as the coffee farmers maintain the quality of their beans so is Craig Miller and his cows maintaining the quality of the milk.

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