Milk or Tea first?


Some people like to leave the soup in their noodles, some have it dry. Raincoat or umbrella? Milo or Nesquik? And most importantly...

Should you put your tea in first, or the milk?

pouring milk in teaI've actually got some science ready to help answer this age old question once and for all. Not that there's actually a right or wrong way - but there is a noticeable difference that comes down to flavour, and I'll explain why.

Milk contains a few different types of proteins that will change depending on how heated they are. Ever tasted burnt milk? That is an extreme version of protein change!

At temperatures higher than 75 degrees, the proteins within milk will start to change, and thus slightly alter the taste of your tea. So what happens if you pour your milk in after your tea?

Basically, a portion of the milk that hits the hot tea first will be affected by the (normally) over 75c temperature of that hot tea. The tea itself will cool down rather fast after milk is poured in, but not before some of that milk has already had its taste changed.

If you pour your milk in first, the hot tea is fighting more against the cold of the milk and has a lot more work to do. In fact, that milk will never reach that critical point of 75c and therefore the taste of the milk will not change.

Funnily enough, people automatically used to put their milk in first back in the old days due to lower quality china cups. Putting boiling water in first used to crack cups over time and thus milk was often placed first for this very reason to help offset the heat of boiling water and preserve the life of the cup.

As fine china improved in quality, people started to place the tea in first as a wealth statement to show off the quality of their cups. The practice of milk first is still kept today by many for this reason, although most are unaware of how or why this began.

With all of the above being said, there is one reason (besides preferring the taste) to pour milk in last. And that is that it's easier to judge the strength of the tea based on how much milk you have poured in!

And one final tip before we finish up...

use fresh water for tea

It's good practice to use fresh water every time you boil the kettle as every time you reboil, the natural minerals within that water will condense. Boiling water also reduces the Co2 levels within that water, and reboiling will reduce those levels further.


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  • Toby Gospodarczyk

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