How to make the perfect cup of tea is continuously debated. One of the biggest arguments involves when to add the milk. I’ve come across three explanations as to the origination of milk being added to tea. You be the judge as to which makes sense to you.
Story one: Centuries ago, milk was put in first to prevent cups from breaking. Only the rich could afford porcelain and everyone else used cheap china. Porcelain could withstand the heat of tea being poured directly in the cup. Inexpensive china often broke when the tea was poured directly in the cup. Adding milk first tempered the tea and prevented the cups from breaking.
Story two: As tea leaves were an expensive luxury in Europe, milk was added by the middle and lower classes as a way to “extend” their tea.
Story three: The teas shipped to Europe in the 17th and early – mid 18th centuries were so strong that milk was needed to temper the bitterness of their tea drink.
While each of these stories probably has some truth to it, a wine maker friend of ours from the Napa Valley recently gave me her simple, scientific reason. Just as cheese and red wine pair well, so does black tea with milk. Milk or dairy products work as “fining” agents with the tannins in both wine and tea resulting in a pleasant taste experience, softening the effects of the tannins. Makes sense to me.
Whether you add tea to your cup first or last is up to you; however, there are a couple guidelines that seem universally recommended:
- Don’t add milk to white, green, or Oolong teas. These leaves are delicate and fragrant. The addition of milk will drown out the tea taste and aroma.
- Two-percent or whole milk is best. Cream is not good with tea, as the milk fats interact adversely with tea tannins.
- Teas recommended for milk teas include these black teas: Assam, Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast Ceylon, Masala Chai.
There are other types of milk teas, some coming from India in which your tea, milk, and sugar are actually cooked together.
Bodum offers many beautifully designed glasses.
Enjoy and drink tea…