The use of non-dairy creamers peaked in the 1980s, but there are people who have always used one form of milk or another instead.
The bad ingredient I’m talking about is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Hydrogenation is what happens to vegetable oil when it’s cooked. Shortening, and I don’t see it around as much as I used to, already contains hydrogenated vegetable oil.
I was born in 1960 and I grew up watching the older folks drink coffee with a dairy creamer of one kind or another. I don’t even remember a non-dairy creamer being used before my family moved to Hawaii in the seventies.
Evaporated milk from a can is what I remember the most. It’s milk with a lot of the water removed and it still needs refrigeration after opening. You have to add your own sweetener if you want your coffee sweet. Condensed milk, also called “sweetened condensed milk”, already includes a sweetener. It’s basically evaporated milk plus a sweetener. It also needs refrigeration after opening.
Some people think that regular whole milk is thick enough to serve the purpose. I know UHT milk works well because it’s what I use on rare occasions. Since I learned of the trans-fat issue surrounding partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, I’ve been drinking coffee black with a little added sugar more than any other way.
One of the first makers of non-dairy coffee creamers was the Carnation company (now Nestlé), with Coffee-mate in 1961. A bunch of other companies saw how lucrative sales were and started marketing their own brands. I can’t even begin to name names.
I suppose people who are lactose intolerant are left with a choice of either black coffee or coffee with a non-dairy creamer. Fortunately, Nestlé came out with non-dairy creamers that are low in fat. Some supposedly contain no partially hydrogenated vegetable oil at all.
The trick is to read the label. Some brands of non-dairy creamer will say “no trans-fat” when they have just little enough to legally say none. The Nestlé Corporation has no reason to skew this information since they’re marketing health-conscious products as much as possible. Nevertheless, a profit motive is way more powerful than complete honesty so take it for what it’s worth.
I’m no chemist and I only know what I’ve learned through various sources. The process of hydrogenating vegetable oil produces trans-fats. Scientists have linked trans-fats to heart disease as well as the increased size of people’s abdomens.
People use non-dairy creamers in tea as well as coffee. The trans-fat that non-dairy creamers introduce outweigh the benefits of drinking tea. You need to do your research and read the labels when you decide to buy non-dairy creamers. It’s your health you should worry about, not the taste.
Edited and updated. Originally published at my RT Cunningham website in April 2018.