The perfect cup of tea - Add milk first


(All their problems would have been solved by ice cubes.)

In this recent post on the lovely Science Blog, they discussed the art of creating the perfect cup of tea, but specifically - when should the milk be added?

In times past, those who added milk to the tea first were of the lower class, because of their lower quality make of their mugs and cups meant that they would break due to the heat of boiling water, thus adding milk to the cup first cooled the water down before it hit the cup. The higher classes, of course, could afford higher quality make of teacups and therefore would add their milk afterwards - what an interesting insight into how this phenomenon came about!

But it seems this resulted in the lower classes having a tastier mug of tea, proven scientifically! Ben Stutchbury says:

Tea contains acidic molecules called tannins, which are also present in red wine. These molecules make the tea quite bitter. The proteins in the milk bind to the tannins, neutralising their bitter taste. If the milk is added to the hot water second, it breaks into smaller drops and the proteins in the milk are heated faster, causing them to become degraded (or, more scientifically, denatured). Subsequently, the denatured proteins cannot bind to the bitter tannins. This is avoided by adding the brewed tea (which will have now cooled) to the milk, leading to a smoother, creamier cup of tea. It also prevents to taste of ‘cooked’ milk from masking that of the tea.

I've always added milk second because of both habit and the reasons alluded to by Stutchbury later in his post - how do you tell how much milk you need? But I suppose it's worth a try if it produces a more tasty cuppa. ;)

That's all from a upper-class-wannabe mug-toting New Southern Welshman. (Fine bone china? Ain't got no money for that.)