Milk in Tea: The Dos, Don’ts, and Everything in Between
As you are well aware, the popularity of tea is on the rise. These days, you can easily score a wide variety of teas in coffee shops and even someone's home. Now, one thing that has become noticeable with this trend, though, is the different ways that people take their tea.
In particular, you will find that there are some people that do add milk in tea and others that don’t. So, which category do you fall into and does it really matter? Well, it appears that it does!
Milk can have an impact on both the taste as well as the health benefits of tea. Not to mention, there are some brews that you simply shouldn’t be using milk with in the first place! So, on this note, let’s discover everything we can about pouring milk into your brew.
Milk Tea Drinking Cultures
Do you put milk in tea? Then, you’re not alone! There is plenty of milk tea drinking cultures around the world. This includes India, Britain, Hong Kong, Thailand, Qatar, Malaysia, and a whole lot more.
In some cases, milk is simply an addition. In other parts of the world, the milk is just as important as the tea. The amount of milk poured in the brew can be rather varying as well. Sometimes, the drinker has control over how much is contributed to the cup. Otherwise, the tea maker introduces a measured quantity to the batch.
Now that it is clear that you are in good company, let’s take a look at the kind of teas that you can and can’t add milk to…
What is the Best Tea with Milk?
Needless to say, not all teas work well with milk. So, which types of teas can accommodate this? Traditionally, milk has been used with bold and robust teas in an attempt to lighten the flavor or to dilute it a little. As such, black tea and milk is a pretty common combination.
Nevertheless, in some cultures, people will drink milk with green tea. This is typically done when the green tea is of a lower quality and is overly bitter. The milk helps to mask these unpleasant flavors.
You should also be aware that people are getting more inventive with the way that they make tea. As such, it isn't unusual to find people drinking Earl Grey with milk – this is often referred to as an Earl Grey latte. It is a popular order in coffee shops.
Then, there is oolong milk tea – this is a bit more of an unusual drink as oolong tends to be delicately flavored. Nevertheless, some find that the subtleness of the flavor works well with milky undertones.
In the end, though, it is largely up to your personal preference. Do you find teas more palatable when you add milk to them? Then, go ahead and do so.
What About Herbal Tea with Milk
While many people will pour in a splash of milk with true teas, this is virtually unheard of with herbal teas. So, why is this? For the most part, this is because many herbal teas can have rather potent flavors of their own. And, in most instances, these flavors don’t complement the creaminess of milk.
Take peppermint tea with milk, for example. The cooling and minty flavor of the peppermint contrasts rather heavily with the natural flavors of milk. As such, herbal teas are drunk as they are. There is also the fact that milk can often take away from the beneficial properties of herbal teas.
Once again, though, it is a matter of preference. If you feel like milk can enhance certain herbal teas, you can feel free to add it as you wish.
Want to Be a Tea Expert? Ditch the Milk
Are you trying to learn to appreciate the natural and varying flavors of tea? Then you should steer clear of milk completely. As mentioned above, milk disguises the flavors of tea – even black tea. This means that you can’t really appreciate the subtle hints, notes, and aromas.
Now, with cheaper quality teas, this isn't such a bad thing. These teas have a tendency to have an overwhelming bitterness to them. If you are investing in better quality teas, though, then milk will only disrupt your experience.
With good teas, no two teas are alike. For instance, some black teas have a certain robustness to them, while with others there is a tangible malt-like flavor. There is just as much discrepancy with green teas too. Even oolong teas have unique profiles that you need to taste to learn to appreciate.
Therefore, if you are planning on becoming a tea connoisseur, avoid adding milk in the beginning. Rather, truly taste the flavors. Then, if you still don’t enjoy the taste, you can consider using milk to flavor the brew.
Is Milk Tea Good For You?
A significant number of tea drinkers have picked up this habit due to the many health benefits associated with tea. Therefore, it is only natural for you to be curious about whether milk adds or detracts to these advantages.
There is no denying that that milk can be good for your health. It is categorized as a whole food that can aid with bone development, improve dental health, and reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. It is even known to curb your appetite.
However, as more research has been done on dairy milk, experts are realizing that there is more to the story. For instance, cow’s milk has found to aggravate a wide variety of skin conditions and potentially increase your risk of prostate cancer.
Then, there is also the fact that a significant percentage of the population is lactose intolerant. This means that consuming milk or even adding it to your tea could cause certain digestive issues.
In reality, the impact of milk on the health properties of tea hasn’t been thoroughly investigated. Due to this, there is often conflicting evidence about the role of milk in your brew. This is especially about how milk can affect antioxidant capacity of tea.
In some instances, milk doesn’t affect the antioxidant activity of tea at all. In other cases, it appears that milk can prevent the body from absorbing antioxidants as readily. However, experts believe that these discrepancies can be the result of:
- The type of tea
- Quality of tea
- The kind of milk
- Quantity of milk
- How the milk tea is prepared
Due to this, it can be difficult to know whether your cup of milky tea, specifically, is having a positive or muted impact on your health. Of course, to be on the safe side, skipping the milk will ensure that you are gaining all the health benefits of the tea.
Side Effects of Milk Tea
Now, there is one thing that experts can agree on – milk tea isn't as beneficial for your heart as plain tea. As you may be aware, tea has heart protective properties. Due to this, it can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and even stave off various cardiovascular diseases.
When you add milk to the equation, however, these properties cease to exist. This is because the milk inhibits this activity. Thus, if you are drinking tea to boost your heart health, it is best to steer clear from the milk.
It should also be noted that, by itself, most true teas contain little to no calories. Milk, on the other hand, contains calories and is higher in fats as well. This means that if you are consuming tea to lose weight, milk will contradict these efforts.
When it comes to green tea, milk can counteract the weight loss impact even more. See, green tea makes it easier to lose weight through a process known as diet induced thermogenesis. The proteins found in milk, however, inhibit this.
What About Plant-Based Milks?
These days, plant-based milks are becoming more commonplace. And, to a certain extent, they are deemed a healthier alternative to cow’s milk. So, should you be adding these milks instead?
Well, it is a good idea to think carefully about the kind of milk that you are using. This is because soy milk tends to be rather high in protein as well. As such, it can negate the health benefits of tea in the same way that cow’s milk can.
Other milks like almond, cashew, oat, and rice milk don’t have as nearly as many proteins as the soy and cow’s milk. Thus, you should be able to add these to your tea without seeing as much disruption to the health advantages.
Of course, you should bear in mind that these milks can contain fats, sugars, and calories that can compromise certain healthful elements of the tea.
How to Make Milk Tea
If you do want to give milk tea a try, then you should know so tips, tricks, and recipes to work with. So, here you go:
How Much Milk to Add to Tea?
There is no right and wrong answer here – you can add as much or as little as you like. This doesn’t mean that you should just add a large quantity right away, though. Instead, start by adding a minute amount. Then, taste the tea.
Do you like what you are tasting? Or, is more milk needed? If you feel like more is required, then add a little bit more – continue adding small amounts until you have reached a level that you like. This strategy will make it far easier to determine just how much milk you will take in your tea.
What Kind of Milk Should You Use?
Now, you may be wondering what kind of milk you should use? Is regular best – or should you give cream in tea a try? Or, would half and half in tea taste better?
It really is all up to your preference. Cream will naturally add more creaminess to your drink and may eclipse more of the natural flavors of the tea as well. Half and half, on the other hand, may allow more of these flavors to shine through.
You should know that certain tea and iced tea recipes may use evaporated milk or condensed milk instead of regular milk. These, of course, will create a far sweeter and thicker drink as well.
Brewing Milk Tea
There are two main ways to brew milk tea. One involves heating up water and then steeping the tea leaves (or teabag) in the water. Once the leaves have steeped for a sufficient amount of time, you discard the leaves or bag and pour in the milk.
Your other option involves brewing the tea directly in hot milk. Sometimes, a little bit of water is added to the concoction and other times, only milk is used. If you decide to go with this method, you should be mindful that the milk can easily overpower the flavor of the tea.
Thus, you may need to add more tea leaves or teabag to let the taste of tea really come through. Your other option would be to make brews such as masala chai as these flavors hold up far better in milk.
Milk Tea Recipe
Here is how you can make a traditional cup of milk tea:
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tsp. of black tea leaves(or 1 teabag)
- 1 tsp. of brown sugar
- ¼ cup of half and half
Step 1: Heat Water
Warm water until it reaches 195 to 205°F.
If you don’t have an electric kettle, simply take the water off the heat once it reaches a boil.
Step 2: Steep the Tea Leaves
Pour the water into a cup. Add the tea leaves or the tea bag.
Let the tea steep for 3 to 5 minutes or until it has reached your preferred strength.
Keep in mind that adding milk will dilute the tea. So, you may want to let the tea steep for a little longer for a better flavor.
Once the tea has finished steeping, discard the leaves or the bag.
Step 3: Add Sugar
Add the sugar while the tea is still quite hot. This will ensure that the sugar will dissolve more easily.
Stir well until all the crystals have dissolved.
Step 4: Add Milk
Add the milk and stir well.
Make sure to stir once more before drinking.
This is your lowdown on milk in tea. Who would have imagined that there was quite so much to know? Now that you are aware of the facts, though, you can make your tea more carefully.
Dr. Dheena Sadik
Consultant Nutritionist and Dietician
Dr. Dheena Sadik is a consultant Nutritionist and Dietician. She has over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. However, her love for tea began long before she understood the health benefits of tea. Growing up in Sri Lanka, Dheena had the privilege of being surrounded by the world-famous Ceylon tea. This is what got her started on her exploration of the various types of tea. She has now extensively tasted and examined teas from all over the world.