Why do we add milk or cream to our tea? Series Part II - Good Life Tea

Why do we add milk or cream to our tea? Series Part II

by Katie Panara March 05, 2018

Why do we add milk or cream to our tea? Series Part II

Good morning, stars! I call you stars because we are all stars in the Milky Way of the world and today I’ll be discussing tea, the milky-way! In other words, just as last week we discussed adding sugar to our tea, this week we will explore why it is that we add milk and cream to our tea!

While it is thought and often said that the British were the first to add milk to their tea there are other theories and clues to dispute this. There are a few accounts of milk being add to tea in China and Tibet prior to accounts in England but for the purposes of this article we will discuss milk being added first in England in 1660.

Initially, surprisingly enough, milk was not added for taste at all. Instead, it was added as a precautionary measure to ensure that the temperature of the hot tea would not crack the fragile porcelain teacups that it was served in. You will notice that individuals will add the milk to their cup, prior to their tea. This is because glass and porcelain can be extremely sensitive to dramatic changes in temperature; whether it be heating or cooling. This dramatic change can cause cracking. When milk is added prior to hot tea to the teacup it neutralizes the temperature of the tea when it comes into contact with the glass and prevents cracking.

Another reason milk is added to tea, pertaining to the glass that it is served in deals with tannins. Black teas are packed with tannins that are known to stain not only our teeth. These tannins can also stain porcelain and glass over time. If teacups are continually used for black tea, over time, you will notice a yellowing of your tea ware. Milk has been added as an attempt to counterbalance the tannins in the tea and offset this yellowing.

This next reasoning on adding milk to tea I found to be the most interesting. Historically, tea was only available to the higher class because of its price. While tea was expensive, milk, on the contrary, was not, and was more readily available to all. This being said, it is said that when milk is added to the cup is important. Those not as fortunate would add their milk first and fill the cup with a majority of milk and only a splash of tea due to its price. Conversely, those in higher classes would add their tea first and fill their cup with a majority tea and add only a dash of milk as they could afford this. While this has since become nil, paying attention to whether a person adds their milk before or after their tea can shed light on their heritage.

Additionally, milk or cream is added simply for taste. Tea, notoriously, embodies quite a bitter taste. This can be a result of over steeping but more frequently is product of picking a naturally bitter tea rich in tannins. Lactose in milk or creamer easily offsets the bitter taste and neutralizes the tannins. 

In doing the research for this post, I learned much more than expected. If you have any other questions or things to add to this post, please don't hesitate to comment! As always, I hope you all have a wonderful week! Happy sipping! -- Kay-tea :) 

P.S. Continue on to Part III of our series here...

Part III: Why do we add lemon to our tea?

Purchase some of our delicious black teas here!

 

Katie Panara
Katie Panara



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