The NYU Student Bringing Vegan Kefir to the Market

Yes, they do have oat milk.


Baskya began Elliphs after being disappointed with the lack of options for vegan kefir. (Courtesy of Esin Baskya)

By Elif Kesikbas, Staff Writer

On Wednesday afternoon, I met with Esin Baskaya at Broken Coconut. She arrives wearing a white T-shirt with loose black pants and metallic black leather boots. While she orders an antioxidant-rich matcha, I go for my third Americano of the day. We take the corner booth, which directly faces the pink neon “Eat Pretty” sign. It is just the right place to discuss Elliphs — the Steinhardt sophomore’s new vegan milk and kefir startup.

Baskaya, who avoids dairy, first started by making vegan milk for her personal consumption, then for her friends. “Just the way you would make at home,” she labels the milk that she now makes for public consumption. Her simple, two-ingredient milks, are made only of almonds, macadamia nuts or oats and filtered water. The process requires 24 to 48 hours of soaking before she can start. She recycles the residues for her oatmeals.

As the products gained popularity among his peers, the cost and the time constraints made it unsustainable for Baskaya to distribute her milk for free.

Baskya holds a bottle of her vegan kefir. (Courtesy of Esin Baskya)

“The brand itself grew organically,” Baskaya said, while sipping her matcha and pulling up a picture of her bottled and stickered milks. “So all of a sudden, I have this prototype of my milk brand.”

Recently, Baskaya has turned her attention to producing vegan kefir since there are currently no vegan kefirs available in the United States market.

“Kefir is such a good healthy drink for gut health,” she added. “Maybe you know, but nowadays research shows that our guts are our second brains. In my opinion, it’s not like the second brain or anything it’s literally the first brain.”

Starting with the NYU community and then expanding to supermarkets, Baskaya is determined to make a change by addressing the needs of vegan and lactose-intolerant consumers with her vegan kefirs, which will be produced by fermenting the non-dairy milks that she produces herself. She is still developing the perfect formula. 

Although Baskaya is alone in the kitchen for now, the Nutrition & Dietetics major receives support from her professors. Food Management & Theory Professor Steve Zagor has arranged a meeting with attorney Jack A. Gordon of Kent, Betty & Gordon LLP,  to discuss her business plan.

Baskya ultimately hopes to open her own alternative medicine practice. (Courtesy of Esin Baskya)

Meanwhile, she will be active on her Instagram account @elliphsnutrition, which she started in the summer of 2018. Named after her lesser-known middle name “Elif,” she identifies herself as the “imperfect eater, yet the perfect advisor” and shares the scientific knowledge she learns in class, and now it applies to daily life.

The account has gained over 2,000 followers in the past six months. In the era of blogs, Instagram influencers and YouTubers, she hopes her social media presence will help her establish herself as a figure in the food world — especially in the New York metropolitan area.

When Elliphs officially launches next summer, the NYU community will be able to order online delivery.

A version of this article appeared in the Dec. 3 print edition. Email Elif Kesikbas at [email protected]