Published On: Sun, Apr 23rd, 2017

The Great Tea-bate; the controversial question that divides the nation

Forget Brexit or the General Election, we’ve got the coverage of the most important debate in Britain: Milk first or last? Britons around the country have been at loggerheads over whether milk should be added to tea before or after the hot water?

tea milk first or last?

To try to find some clarity on this topic, we asked the general public what they thought and why. Charlotte from Norfolk believes the milk should be added last as the water needs be freshly boiled for a better brew. However, Bonnie claims that adding boiling hot water burns the tea leaves, so the milk should go first to preserve the taste. Both methods make sense, both taste good to the average tea drinker like myself, but what do the experts say?

For an important question like this we looked to the tea connoisseurs of The School of Tea for advice. According to them, the milk should be added after the hot water but only using warm milk. This is so the drink stays hot for longer. Logical, right? But who really has the time to heat up the milk to the perfect temperature. So this isn’t particularly helpful.

However luxury brand, Fortnum and Mason, gave us an insight into where the debate first originated from, which could bring us closer to the answer. When tea was first brought over to this country in the 1660s, people discovered that their cups and chinaware were not strong enough to handle the heat of the water. They had to add in the milk first to stop the material from cracking. As the quality of tea cups improved, it became a social class dividing factor. To pour your milk in first was thought of as ‘the poor way’ to do it, showing that your chinaware was of cheap quality. Only the rich and fancy had the privilege of pouring milk last.

My personal preference has to be milk last so you can add the right amount of milk to balance with the tea. Everyone has a slightly different milky preferences so by adding it in last you can be precise, rather pouring too much at the beginning then not being able to undo it.

This sparks numerous other tea-bates based on the colour (milkiness) of the tea, how long you should brew it for, loose or bagged leaves, flavoured teas, brands of tea and biscuits best to dunk (it’s got to be digestives, right?!). It seems like we will never reach a unanimous decision in this debate, but at least we all can agree that there is nothing better than settling down on the sofa after a long day with a freshly brewed cuppa. Cheers!

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