Why Milk with Tea?

Tea is an Asian infusion of dried tea leaves in water. The amount of oxidation that the leaves undergo dictates whether you have green or black tea. As many Asians are lactose intolerant, tea in China and Japan (where it originated) is always served black. It can be blended with spices to alter the flavour (star anise and cinnamon are common). ebiochem.com

It was the Portuguese who first brought tea to Europe and it was James II’s Portuguese wife, Catarina Henriqueta de Bragança (Catherine of Braganza) who introduced tea to Britain in 1662. The beverage became briefly popular, but then died away. Indeed, it was not until the 19th century that tea became as widely consumed in Britain as it is today. This was due in part to the Industrial Revolution, the establishment of tea plantations in India and Sri Lanka and the development of cheap cups. ebiochem.com

When tea became common, the process of making heat-resistant china had not been perfected in Britain and crockery was of poor quality. Because tea must be brewed with water that has boiled, for best flavour tea is naturally very hot. When poured into poor quality crockery these cracked. ebiochem.com

Because of this, milk was added first to the cup and the tea was poured on top. This cooled the tea, preventing the crockery from cracking. The practice of adding mil to tea (or tea to milk) became commonplace. When Josiah Wedgewood developed the china making process, it was possible for the better off to buy heat-resistant plates and dinnerware. ebiochem.com

In these, boiling hot tea could be poured directly into the cups. As a result the upper classes would pour tea into the crockery first and then add milk. Due to relative wealth you had two practices — add milk first, or add tea first. And the way someone prepared their tea became a visible indication of class. ebiochem.com

Which is funny, as the practice of adding milk to cups to protect them from hot tea had become universal. Everyone had milk with their tea. But when the milk was added became a visible class separator. ebiochem.com

Remember that tea is actually an herb and can be used for much more than just making an infusion (tea). For more information on tea and the tea plant along with tea-based recipes, see the tea as an herb and tea recipes information page. ebiochem.com

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