To milk or not to milk…that is the rather weird sounding question of the day! This blog post was supposed to be a deep dive into the 5 types of tea – I’m trying to keep a consistent, easy to follow mindset when it comes to my study of tea, However, there’s something I wanted to take a look at before I forget…
A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post entitled 5 things I know about tea, that I didn’t know last week. On that post was a brief snippet about my discovery regarding why we put milk, and sugar, into our tea… I wanted to dig deeper into this, rather than just go on the story of the man at Fortnum & Masons, who told me the reason we put milk & sugar into our tea is a direct result of the British trying to boost the economy back in the 17th Century.
Now originally I wanted to pull together proven, historical reasoning for this article, however, one search of the phrase ‘why do we put milk in our tea?’ on Google, leads me down a rabbit hole of stories, rumours, and more learnings about the very dark past of tea. (I will eventually be getting into this!)
So here are just a few of the stories/suggestions I’ve found that, although interesting, haven’t really helped me piece together anything…
- In the 17th and 18th centuries teacups were so delicate they would crack from the heat of the tea. Milk was added to cool it down! According to Google: “This is why, even today, many English people add milk to their cups BEFORE adding the tea!”
- According to a recent story on the ol’ BEEB, it looks as though the sugar came before milk (mass produced by slaves in the Caribbean & America) – some bright spark thought let’s sweeten up the tea, and let’s add milk – thus creating a process of ‘domestication’ that resulted in taking tea mainstream, so making it really easy & fashionable to drink!
- Numerous forum discussions & Blogs suggest that adding milk to tea came from France in 1680. A french writer named Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, talked about adding milk to her tea in her letters. The reason was to enhance the flavour…
NEWS JUST IN – thought I’d actually go and check out what the F&M site said, and they are in agreement with my first bullet… so the guy behind the counter might need to read up!!?! #Confused
So right now, it’s all still a bit of a mystery, I can’t categorically tell you why we put milk into our tea. Can anyone help me find an answer?!
Until next time,
I’m not going to spend too long on discussing the chemical composition of tea & this is for a couple of reasons – a) I’ve never been a sciencey kinda girl and back at school I used to wince each time photosynthesis was mentioned! I just couldn’t get my head around it – this piece of research has been hard going. And, b) there is SO much to tell that we’d be here all day! Excuses excuses I know!
That being said, I do think it’s important to give the top line of what actually makes up tea, to help understand further what I’m drinking day in day out! The big learning is that there is sooo much more in tea than what I’d originally thought! I thought it was just caffeine- and errr water? Yes, this is going to be embarrassing!
So here’s the top line: pigments, enzymes, carbs, minerals, Polyphenols, Caffeine (aka Methylxathines), Amino Acids, Volatiles, Flavanoids and many more! For a great breakdown of exactly what these chemical compounds are, check out this blog post from the world of tea. It goes into far more detail than I ever could!
Each of these compounds/things found in tea, come into their own at different stages of oxidation & the other processes of tea production! For example, caffeine, responsible for all those feel good awesome feelings you get when drinking tea, is unbelievably strong in the tea leaf, like would send you over the edge kinda strong! But when the tea leaves go through the process of withering, oxidation – aka the photosynthesis kinda stuff, it turns into the perfect amount to give you that much needed natural boost.
This infographic & article from teabox is a super simple way of showing the chemistry of tea.
Anyway, for now, I’m going to move on – I hope to come back to the Chemistry when I’m further along in my journey.
A week into the Tea Journals, I already feel super excited, a little overwhelmed (there is so much to learn) and really positive about my future as an enlightened tea drinker!
To help summarise my learnings, on a weekly basis I’m going to do a rundown of between 5 & 10 things I’ve learnt from all the sources I’ve been accessing and reading. I’ll try and keep them as consistent & coherent as possible, without flitting between subjects, teas, histories, rituals, plants etc… but think it’s important to help consolidate my learnings.
Ok so here goes!
1. There are 3 types of Camelia sinesis, 2 of which (“Camellia sinensis var. sinensis for Chinese teas, and Camellia sinensis var. assamica for Indian Assam teas”) are widely grown & cultivated to make some of the highest qualities of teas, then there’s the cambodiensis variety which isn’t exactly the best for drinking, but fun to grow in your garden – I might do this although I have a track record of plant murder!
2. It takes approximately 2000 tea leaves to make just 1Lb of the tea that you and I know & love. I’m starting to see just how big the scale of this whole tea thing is!
3. There are different methods of making tea, but the two most commonly used in mass production are the orthodox method and the unorthodox method. I’m going to do a full investigation into the many methods of tea making later down the line, but from what I can tell so far these methods depend on the parts of the leaves used. For example, orthodox methods rely on the tender leaves at the top of the tea plant, and the buds. There’s also different processes attached to each method, mixtures of old and new! But, like I said – more on that later – wayyyy too complex for a bullet point.
4. Milk & Sugar were introduced to tea wayyy back in the day by the brits with a bit of a sneaky motive! At least this is what the man behind the counter at Fortnum & Mason told me! In the 16th century when tea was becoming a thing in the U.K. (You wait till you hear the stories of Smugglers & War – actually crazy) the British encouraged drinkers to include milk & sugar to ‘ better the taste’ – this is not common practice across the world – however, as the British relied heavily on the cash brought in by sugar, milk & tea, by associating one with the other, the economy was driven forward. The more tea was used, the stronger it was, so as a result more milk & sugar were used and so on… all very crafty if you ask me!
5. And on that, yesterday for the first time in… well for the first time ever, I made myself a cup of Darjeeling (thank you Teapigs) to enjoy with no milk, and no sugar… (this is what the pack told me to do) and holy mole my eyes were opened! Probably one of the most refreshing cups of tea I’ve ever had! It tasted so wonderful – light, smooth and just like…tea! No clouds, no muddy water, just pure tea! So I think moving forward I’m going to make the concerted effort to try teas in the way they are supposed to be enjoyed.
So that’s it for now – there’s so much more, but who wants to trawl through text heavy blog posts?! Not me! Until next time!
Sources: teaclass.com / World Atlas Of Tea, Krisi Smith, Wikipedia