What is a London Fog, you ask? Hold on, I’ll get to that.
Back in college, I had the world’s best barista. Well, I had two excellent baristas, but I’m going to talk about one in particular. Her name was Noelle. We were both majoring in the humanities, so we saw each other around campus and even took a creative writing course together (and she was obviously brilliant at it). She was one of the coolest people I knew. You know those girls who walk around confidently with their own unique fashion sense and don’t give a crap about the trends anyone else is following? But manage to pull it off without looking ridiculous? That was Noelle.
She also happened to be a helluva barista.
So once upon a time, I spent hours a week at my favorite coffee shop, Cottonwood Coffee in Brookings, South Dakota (I’ve mentioned this place many times). Considering my current espresso addiction, the irony is that I didn’t like coffee (yet). Noelle was working, so I asked her for ideas because I was tired of ordering my usual chamomile or peppermint tea. At this point, I had given up artificial sweeteners and was trying to significantly limit other forms of sugar. I also wanted something without dairy (I wasn’t vegan, but I had finally accepted that dairy made me horrifically ill and should thus be avoided at all costs).
“What about a London Fog?” she asked with the radiating poise and serenity that the best baristas naturally exude. I looked for it on the menu, but it was nowhere to be found. “It’s not up there,” she explained. “But I know how to make it.”
Of course she did.
Normally, a London Fog contains earl gray tea, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup. Given my exhaustive list of requirements, she cheerfully made this mysterious drink with soy milk and just half a pump of vanilla syrup (the norm is usually around two pumps . . . or FIVE if you’re ordering a venti at Starbucks!!!). And then, because Noelle is so dang cool, she wrote down the recipe of exactly how she made it so I could hand it to any barista in the shop to replicate this perfect custom concoction.
Which I did. Frequently.
I expected London Fog to be a popular drink everywhere, but it turns out that even New York City shops are generally unfamiliar with the drink. (You can get around this by asking for an earl gray tea with steamed milk and then adding simple syrup at the milk counter. It’s not a perfect replica, but it does the trick.)
It wasn’t until two weeks ago when I was in Seattle and Vancouver that I noticed the London Fog listed on the menu at almost every single coffee shop I stepped into. And believe me, I visited many.
Sure enough, TastingTable.com confirms that it’s native to the Pacific Northwest and was created in Vancouver. Considering Noelle and I grew up in Minnesota, that just makes her that much cooler. How does she do it?
Side note: my frother did such a great job this day. I don’t always get such frothy results! FYI: I used Trader Joe’s original soy milk (the refrigerated kind) for this photoshoot. Definitely a winner.
Please read the entire recipe all the way through before making this recipe as it is slightly more complicated than my usual recipes.
- [reads] “Let’s Expose the Gender Pay Gap” via the NY Times
- [tunes] “All That I Know Is (I’m Your Baby)” by Caroline Smith
- [tunes] The “Nature Noise” playlist on Spotify – it’s truly just a compilation of “songs” like “jungle noises” and “campfire at the beach.” I call it my meditation music. Super relaxing . . . if you’re into that kind of thing. 😉
What you'll need:
- 1 or 2 earl gray tea bags
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup quick-cool steel cut oats
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup grated or pureed zucchini or yellow squash (peeling optional)*
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (recommended) or extract
- maple syrup to taste
- pinch of salt
- enough milk (soy recommended**) to fill your milk frother***
How to make it:
- Add 1/2 cup water to a saucepan and add tea bag. Bring to a low boil and let the tea steep for around 2-3 minutes. (This is an excellent time to grate your zucchini.) DO NOT steep it for longer than this or it will become unpleasantly bitter. The small amount of water is what will make the tea flavor strong, NOT the amount of time it steeps. 🙂
- When your tea is ready, remove the tea bag and add the oats and grated zucchini. Reduce heat to a simmer. You want to make sure it's not too high or it will dry out quickly because you have a lower amount of liquid in there. (We'll fix that soon--don't worry!)
- While your oats simmer, prepare your steamed milk according to your frother's instructions. For most machines, this should take about 90 seconds. Make sure you have the frother wand attached! 🙂 (If you do not own a frother, see notes below.)
- By this time, your oatmeal may start looking a little dry. Add approximately 1/4 cup of your steamed milk to the saucepan and stir it in. (Try your hardest to get the milk from the bottom of the frother--save the velvety froth at the top for later!!)
- Next, add vanilla bean paste (or extract), maple syrup, and salt. Stir.
- When you're pleased with the consistency of the oatmeal, transfer to a bowl. Top with remaining steamed milk and froth (it might be a lot--don't feel obligated to use all of it!****). Other additional possibilities for toppings include berries, pomegranate, coconut, or nuts (almonds would add a nice neutral crunch).
Just an FYI:
*I like using yellow squash because it doesn't leave green streaks. No peeling!! Yay! **Soy milk froths up better than almond milk or other alternatives. Cow's milk obviously froths well. ***If you don't have a milk frother (I have a Starbucks Verismo Electric Milk Frother), just add 1/4 cup milk to the oatmeal to make it creamier (and top with a little heated milk when serving). ****You could put the leftover milk back in the fridge for later use (it will lose its froth, but will still be consumable! Another alternative is to double the recipe and split the steamed milk between the two bowls.