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Foods & Recipe

You’re a fool if you don’t put milk in your tea first

Jul 27, 2017

It’s time to stand up and be proud of who we are. We don’t need to hide in the shadows anymore. We don’t need to whisper in corners.


Have I made tea with the milk going in last in my lifetime? Of course I have. I’ve done it this week, I’ll do it again, but it will always happen when I’m being a lazy bastard.


If you put your milk in last, you – to be frank – are an insufficient tea-maker.


The good news is that you are not alone. The bad news is that you are not alone.

Insufficient tea-makers are all over the world and they have plagued the tea-drinking society with their laziness. Listen, I get it. If you give someone the option of completing a task in 30 seconds or completing that same task with the same outcome in two minutes, who wouldn’t want to get it done quicker?


The thing is though, it’s not the same outcome. Lord above, it couldn’t be further from the same outcome.

Just watch – by God, you just watch – the next time someone is sent for a round of tea, study the absolute disregard that person has for what they are actually doing. A line of cups will be laid out, tea bags will be thrown in as if they were a dripping lid from a filthy tin of tuna, and they’ll be extracted again before the water is even finished pouring.


The problem is that these frauds, these insufficient tea-makers get away with it because, when the boiling water hits the tea bag first, you automatically get what we call – not to get too technical – a tea-y colour. It doesn’t mean that the tea is strong enough, it doesn’t mean it’s even tea yet – it just presents itself in that form because of the shortcut process.


It’ll never make it past the taste test never mind the scrutiny that every half decent cup of tea should stand up to when you’re looking at the richness of its texture.

Putting milk in first alleviates all those problems entirely.


Not even an insufficient tea-maker could bypass the milk-first approach. It’s bullet-proof. It’s fraud-proof.


By putting the tea bag and the milk in before the hot water, the tea-maker – insufficient or not – is forced to spend longer in the stirring process which should never just be a stirring process.



The tea bag should be caressed playfully around the cup. It should be turned and twisted but never attacked. It should be lifted and dunked and cared for with patience until, eventually, the right colour comes through – the tea-y colour.


The only thing certain in this unpredictable world is that, with the milk in first, everyone has to work to get the right colour and therefore get the right strength in their tea. There’s no way around it – it keeps everyone honest and brings the trust back into sending someone to make tea for you, safe in the knowledge that they simply can’t half-arse their way through it and bring you back something so weak that it might as well be a cup of dirty water.


But, hey, science also backs it up. That’s right, science.


A study from 2003 found that adding milk last – into the boiling water – causes the milk to heat unevenly. If this happens to milk, the proteins in it lose their structure and clump. If they clump, you get floaties in your tea or a layer of milk skin atop of your finished product. It’s reprehensible, really.


“If milk is poured into hot tea, individual drops separate from the bulk of the milk, and come into contact with the high temperatures of the tea for enough time for significant denaturation – degradation – to occur,” Dr Stapley of Loughborough University proved by science.

“This is much less likely to happen if hot water is added to the milk.”

It’s much more functional too. What else are you going to be doing with yourself for the 4 minutes 16 seconds it takes to boil a standard 1.7 litre Russel Hobbs kettle? You can add the milk, put the milk away and then devote yourself solely to the love and attention every individual tea bag deserves.



These 10-second stirrers have been allowed to run wild for too long and, not only that, they’ve somehow won the cultural war along the way where they’re now so arrogant in their laziness that they actually have the audacity to laugh at those who devote their lives to putting the milk in first – the way it should be done, the best way, the tea pot way.


In the absence of a tea pot, this is your best bet – your only bet – to getting the most out of your bag. If you don’t like it, you’re welcome in the coffee world pretending that your hot drink is something special when, in reality, it’s a cup of bloody coffee.

It will never compete.

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