Adding Milk To Tea The Right Way And Why

You will find with almost every type of tea, whether boba, chair, Earl Grey, or whatever else, that they are commonly enjoyed with just a little milk. This is seen all over the world, with this combination being popular in a lot of different countries. 

However, have you ever wondered why we decided to combine our tea leaves with dairy and how this became just so popular? 

Adding Milk To Tea The Right Way And Why

With its rise in popularity, many people wonder if there is a correct method for adding milk to tea, and whether we should be doing it all. After all, some purists disagree with even the thought of adding it.

Also, we will look at the scientific side of adding milk to tea.

So, for whatever reason you add milk to tea, this article will have all the information you need about this combination.

So, if you have ever wondered why we put milk in tea, how to do this, or any other related questions, keep reading to get the answers you are looking for!

Why Do We Put Milk In Tea?

It is actually quite hard to identify the specific origin of putting milk in tea, especially since this combination is present in so many different cultures throughout the world.

However, some historical studies point to British culture as the origin of the combination of tea and milk to mellow out the flavor. 

There is also traditional Tibetan butter tea which is a different type of dairy combination.

However, if we are looking at the inspiration between an Indian chai, or a Hong Kong milk tea, there are clear signs that this was inspired by a British influence.

Since this trend has picked up, we see milk being added to tea all over the world, and the main reason we believe this combination became so popular is how the milk added to the tea affects the taste.

But there is also some science behind why this combination is so popular.

Even perfectly steeped tea could taste a little dry or bitter, and this flavor sensation is more formally referred to as astringency.

When you are comparing this to other types of tea, black tea is particularly likely to have an astringent taste due to the higher tannin content. 

However, milk will combat the astringent nature of black tea. This instead gives it a more mild and pleasant taste. This is similar to the reason why adding sugar to tea is so popular, as it also combats the astringency of the tannins.

This is why adding both sugar and milk is so common when preparing black tea.

Another less obvious reason why adding milk to tea has become so popular is that it also lowers the team’s ability to stain your teeth.

It is shown that there is actually a component in milk that is known as casein, and this also has some slight bleaching ability, which is why a milky tea is less capable of staining your tea than a black one.

The Right Way To Add Milk To Tea

It is a common debate, especially in the UK, about what the correct order is when it comes to adding milk to your tea, whether it goes in before or after the tea.

There is actually a 1946 novel by George Orwell where he talks about how the tea should be added first, and goes into detail about this conflict saying:

“The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable.

This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.”

There is also the question of how the combination of milk and tea, and the correct order could have some roots in social class.

A key example of this is how in the UK it was seen that tea drinkers of a lower class would not be able to buy high-quality china and would have to add milk to the cup to cool it down so that when the hot tea was added it would not shatter.

Whereas the upper class would not have to worry about this having higher quality china, so they knew that their china could avoid shattering when exposed to hot water.

Adding Milk To Tea The Right Way And Why

Rules On How To Add Milk To Tea

So, while Orwell believes that adding milk to tea first is incorrect and the only correct way is tea first, we still think that it is up to preference and you can do whatever feels more comfortable for you.

However, there are some rules and tips you should follow to get the best results when you are adding milk to your tea.

Firstly, you want to add a splash of milk if you want to do what is most popular. This is usually seen to be a little under a teaspoon, or 5 milliliters. If you add too much milk, this can start to overpower the flavor of the tea and mask it.

If you want to add milk frothy-style, you can whip up your warm milk before you add it to the tea. 

However, what is more common is just adding a small amount of cold milk instead. The best type of tea to add milk to is a black tea like a standard English blend or an Assam.

This is because they tend to have a bold and malty taste that is complemented by adding milk.

If you add milk to a green or a white tea, their subtle flavor is much more likely to get washed out, and they usually do not have a flavor that compliments the milk.

Milk Alternatives For Tea

While dairy is the most common type of milk that has been added to black tea, with yak tea in Tibetan butter tea being notable or buffalo milk with Indian chai.

However, you have likely noticed that different alternatives to milk are becoming more and more common regarding what you want to add to your tea.

While these were originally offered for people who were avoiding dairy for whatever reason, a lot of people now prefer these versions of milk, whether it is for ethical reasons or taste.

You can find a lot of different dairy alternatives being offered in different places that serve tea, and while a lot of them will have different options, they will usually be missing a couple. So, let’s look at all of our favorite versions of milk to put in tea.

  • One of the most common milk alternatives to put in tea is almond milk and it is seen as a perfect middle-of-the-road solution.

    This is because almond milk does not tend to be watery like other substitutes, and it has quite a subtle flavor as well.

    This means that it works very well as a standard milk substitute for those who are accustomed to dairy.
  • One of the other more common milk substitutes is soy milk, however, this type of milk does have some more clear drawbacks when compared to almond milk.

    For example, soy milk has a chance to curdle if it is combined with hot temperatures, or when it interacts with acidity, both of which are likely when being added to a drink like tea.
  • If you are looking to replicate the creaminess of adding milk to tea, then you should try oat milk as it replicates this the closest.

    This will go great with a standard black tea, however, compared to some other tea alternatives it tastes a little too strong with the oat flavor being pretty distinct.
  • This is actually just an altered version of the standard dairy milk, however, it is definitely not that similar when you are looking at the end result, however some people like adding it.

    Condensed milk is dairy milk that has been thickened and has had sugar added to it, so this works as a dairy source and as a sweetener.

    This is not a common addition to most black teas, however, it is most popular when used in a Thai milk tea where the flavors work well together.
  • Finally, there is coconut milk which will work well with some types of tea but will contrast others a little too much.

    It is a popular choice for pairing with a green tea or a matcha latte, however, it does not work great with black tea since it is a little too watery.

Milk And The Health Benefits Of Tea

A common concern people have about adding milk to tea is how it alters the nutritional value of the tea, especially when they know that dairy affects the chemical composition of the tea.

Many people are particularly worried about whether milk can kill the antioxidants that make tea quite a healthy option. The answer to this depends since there have been mixed results when this has been explored.

While there is still no conclusive evidence, the most recent studies have shown that while milk will not eradicate the antioxidant qualities of the tea, it will reduce them.

So, while there are still no completely conclusive answers, it is worth avoiding milk if you want to get all the benefits from tea’s antioxidants.


So, we hope this article has given you all the information you are looking for when it comes to whether you should add milk to your tea, how you should add milk to your tea, and how it changes your tea.

There are clear benefits to both sides, but hopefully this article has helped inform you!

Joanne Baltimore
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