When Should You Add Milk to Your Tea?
Adding milk to your cup of tea is best when the tea is strong. It is not a good idea to add milk to green, oolong, white, and some herbal teas as their flavor profile is much too light turning your delicious cup of tea into watered-down flavored milk. As well, some of the complexities found in some higher-end teas will be lost to the addition of milk. While some suggest that milk reduces the health benefits of tea, many of these ideas have been debunked by further research.
The addition of milk can make for an amazing cup of tea giving it a rich and silky texture adding to the flavor. However, when you add milk to a beautifully complex cup of tea you can also completely ruin it. Knowing when to add milk and when to refrain is important. Milk should be used wisely and sparingly when making the perfect cup.
Many coffee lovers are used to adding cream to their favorite cups. If you are making the transition from coffee to tea, it is important to understand that cream can overpower tea and that milk, when appropriate, is the better option.
The Differences Between Milk and Cream
Once the milk has been taken from the cows, it is placed in large vats. These vats allow the milk to settle which allows the butterfat to float to the surface. This butterfat is skimmed off the top and it becomes what we know to be cream. This cream has a much higher fat content than milk, making it thicker and giving it a much richer flavor.
When the cream has been skimmed from the surface, the milk is then spun in a centrifuge which uses centrifugal force to separate the fat molecule from the milk. The two are then remixed to give the milk the desired percentage of fat content for the varying types of milk being produced. The milk is then homogenized to prevent further separation allowing the fat to be evenly distributed throughout the milk.
Due to the higher fat content in the cream, it will be richer and higher in fat; therefore, not a great addition to tea unless in extremely small amounts. The cream will more often than not mask the flavor and destroy the cup.
Does Adding Milk to Tea Change the Health Benefits?
There have been some studies done that suggest that adding milk to your tea can take away from the healthy benefits of tea. The theory is that the proteins found in milk bind to the polyphenols found in tea, reducing their ability to be absorbed in the body. Like most things these days, you can find research on both sides of the aisle and the conclusion doesn’t seem to be so definitive.
In one study conducted with residents of the British Isles, which is fitting considering many Brits love their tea with milk, the outcome showed very different results. Each was given a beverage to drink on 3 different occasions. First, was black tea with milk, Second, they just drank plain black tea and on the third, they drank just milk. They found that the blood levels did increase with the tea and that they didn’t seem to be diminished by the addition of milk.
As far as we’re concerned, adding a little milk to your tea is still healthier than any alternative which is no tea at all.
Which Tea is Best with Milk?
When you add milk to tea you are giving it a richer profile that might overpower the subtle flavors of a lighter tea or mask the nuanced flavors of a more complex tea. Choosing the right tea is critical to making the perfect cup. The best teas with milk are those with a stronger flavor profile such as teas that are high in tannins which make them more astringent. The milk cuts down on this astringency.
These teas include your breakfast teas like Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast, or English Breakfast. It also includes Assam, Nilgiri, Keemun, Lapsang Souchong, and even Ceylon. To be honest, as a general rule you can really go with any black tea if prepared right. Even a Pu-erh could work, however, adding milk to any rare aged Pu-erh will cover up the complexities of the tea.
Many herbal teas are very light in flavor would not fair well with milk; however, yerba mate and rooibos are the exceptions. These herbal teas can sometimes be complemented by a splash of milk, especially blends such as Roasted Cocoa Mint Yerba Mate or Toasted Caramel Rooibos.
Some of the best teas to benefit from milk are the chai infusions such as Red Bush Herbal Chai or Masala Chai. These stronger chai infusions combine the tea with strong spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. The milk tends to compliment these infusions best.
The teas that you absolutely want to avoid destroying with milk are the lighter teas such as green, oolong, white, or most herbal teas. The milk is just too overpowering for these softer teas and what you’ll end up with is flavor milk. Not really our cup of tea if you know what we mean.
To Milk or Not to Milk?
Well, this is now entirely up to you. We encourage you to experiment. Find a tea blend you think will go well with milk and try it out. If you like it and it suits you then that is all that matters. If you are looking for some chai latte recipes to inspire you, check out our other blog posts here.