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Tea Time

Have your say - Responses

Questions: How do you think tea is best served? What do you think: should the milk should go in first or last?

I really enjoyed your article as I am a self-proclaimed tea expert. Since moving to East Africa in 1971 from Vancouver, BC and first being introduced to tea from the many hotels we lived in, due to the political unrest, I have studied and learned as much as is possible. I have sensitive taste buds and enjoy the varieties grown around the world and have put on classes on afternoon tea and tea tastings and have entertained many a group and museum with a talk on tea's incredible history and folk lore while dressed appropriately in an 1895 period tea gown. You explained that 'high tea' is a commoners' tea which I thank you for as I have had many an argument with ladies professing it to be a classier tea. Even giving the historical background of the classes has rarely helped. Your good reputation will help lend credence to my discussions. Many new books have come out in the last twenty years or on 'tea', but not all have done their research. I'm surprised at how many mistakes have been published. Your article though was top notch. (Afternoon tea is bigger in the States than in Canada, I am ashamed to say. I feel that having closer ties to Britain we should be the North American leaders in preparing and serving tea. Alas, not so.)

I'm a 'miffer'. Milk in first. Really because I'm lazy. This way I don't have to stir the tea! I have found in my research that the milk went in first to save the fine china from cracking with the heat of the tea alone. Pouring the hot tea on a spoon in the cup should accomplish this too. As to how much tea per cup/pot etc. I tell my students and interested persons that they can start with a standard teaspoon per cup (never an extra for the pot) and depending on their personal preferences they can increase and decrease the amount. I also tell them to note on the tea canister or packaging what was their desired measurement for that type of tea. Teas differ and so too may our likeness in strength for them. Never add anything to a loose tea if it is your first time trying it. Fine teas can stand alone, and should. To accent a tea a thin slice of lemon or a chunk of crystalized ginger can add a pleasant quality. I never add sugar to my everyday tea. I do add milk but just a tad. I love to eat a sweet something with my tea and feel I'm drinking tea naked if I don't have something to nibble on.

Sorry, I didn't like your scone recipe. Too tangy. I'm sure that's a personal thing. My son and husband have gobbled them without complaint. My favourite recipe is as follows: 2 cups flour 2 tbsps sugar 1 tbsp baking powder 1 tsp salt Blend these dry ingredients. With fingers, work in: 2 tbsps butter 2 tbsps shortening (I use Crisco) --- *Crack One (1) egg into a measuring cup and whisk lightly. Add enough milk to read 3/4 cup. Add to dry ingredients and toss lightly with a fork. It's okay not to work it all in with the fork. Sprinkle a counter lightly with flour. Gather the scone dough onto counter (there may be some dry not yet worked in and some very wet clumps - this is as it should be). Knead lightly to bring dough into a uniform ball. Roll or press lightly to one inch. Use a cutter to cut rounds. Place on greased baking sheet. Glaze with one beaten egg. Bake at 425 degs for 12 - 17 minutes depending on your oven. Tops should be a nice golden brown, scones should be raise and cooked through. *Before adding the wet ingredients you can fancy up these scones by adding 2/3 cups dried cherries, or for a tarter taste dried cranberries. I love a mixture of dried apricots and crystalized ginger (australian is best). Raisins, currants and mixed dried fruit work well too. Serve warm with whipped cream (clotted cream if available) and jam or preserves for the plain scones. These are always a hit.
Margot Bureaux, Hantsport, NS

Growing up in England, I was taught to put the milk into the teacup before the tea. This was so that the fine bone china would not be cracked or stained by the hot tea. Since English homes were kept cooler in the past, the cups were likely to be cool too. If you didn't put the milk in first, you were supposed to stand a silver spoon in the cup while you were pouring the tea to diffuse the heat. Today the houses are warmer, as are the cups, and it makes more sense to put the milk in after the tea so that you get just the right balance of tea and milk. Even the queen does it this way today.
Mary-Ellen Flynn

Tea is best when made in a pot, placed on a tray and enjoyed with a friend and absolutely milk in first. However, there are occasions when I add the milk second - at 0600 when I am drowsily looking at The Globe and Mail, which has been our early morning companion for 25 years I make a mug of tea and add the milk afterwards, and when we are roughing it the bush or heeling over while sailing - but I think the tea taste is best when milk is put in first!
Frances Jamieson

I've tried it both ways --milk first, milk last-- and the conclusive result is that the milk should go in first. This allows the milk to be scalded by the tea as it is poured in. IMHO, this makes the perfect cup of tea.
Christine Heywood

Tea is best made with filtered water. You can easily tell just by comparing how the tea looks after it has been poured into a cup. A cup of tea made with most municipally supplied city water will have a shiny film on top; a cup made with reverse osmosis filtered water doesn't.

I agree with the fact that it is hard to regulate how much milk you have put in if you put the milk in first, but it tastes better. The french put them in at the same time.

Best served? Very hot, with a good friend, no sugar, just a little milk (and the milk ALWAYS goes in last!)

I have been a tea drinker for more than 50 years, and have lived in Canada for 35 of those years. The Red Rose advertisement. it is a great bone of contention with us -- Canadian tea bags just doesn't cut it. We recently discovered that our Superstore is selling Marks & Spencer tea bags, so as far as we are concerned the tea bag is the most important component of a "good cup of tea" - and we usually put the milk in last!
Barb Cross

Use Earl Grey tea bags made by Lyons. The best tea pot to use is a small, two cup pot made of stainless steel - the best of these is the Sadler pots made in England. Make sure that water in kettle is boiling...with stainless steel teapot it's not necessary to heat the pot. The milk should ABSOLUTELY go into the cup first, use a large porcelain mug - heavy and large. One sugar cube can be added, and will in fact enhance the flavor of the tea.
Joy Coughlin

Milk should always go in last; for the same reason that Orwell gave.
David Hughes

Can someone please devise an appropriate social response to the act of putting a teabag in a cup, and adding hot water and milk in quick succession? Is grievous bodily harm justified?
Bert Jenkins

No milk please, just dark and delicious. (My girlfriend feels the milk should go in first so she doesn't have to stir it).
Stephen Fowler

A relaxing and sensual experience of tea prescribes it being served in a cup and saucer, as opposed to a mug, which merely becomes a "grab and run" refreshment. Yes it's refreshing, but may also be a palliative. My understanding of the "which comes first" dilemma is passed on from my grandmother and is borne out by my own experience: it is that porcelain cups are simply too delicate to contain a piping hot liquid without cracking. Milk, poured first, provides a "cushion" for the rest. As to preparation, I once read in 'Victoria' magazine that loose tea must be used, as it is the "agony of the leaves" dancing in water that fully releases the tannins and oils that suffuse this wonderful beverage!
Deborah Porter Taylor

I agree with Orwell [George Orwell wrote 11 points about making the perfect cup of tea, and in them said that the milk must be added after pouring the tea into the cup] and would go a step further to say, warm milk before pouring on tea.

The milk should be added first if the objective is tea that is hot. The transient calculation is similar to that used in " Mathematical Model for the Simulation of Transportation of Liquid Aluminum by a Tapping Crucible Between a Reduction Plant and Cast Shop" pages 793-802 , Light Metals, 110th AIME Meeting , Chicago, 1981. That study was originated to determine the merits of when best to add scrap aluminum to smelted metal to obtain the maximum temperature in the cast shop and the now primitive "computer model" went on to design Alcan's liquid metal transportation system between Grande Baie and Jonquiere, Que. by Alcan. As I recall George Orwell's erroneous recommendation was behind the need to do this work and I can recall discussing the subject of tea in meetings in Jonquiere, Que. and also at a meeting that set up the validation tests in Kitimat. To Orwell's recommendations, after correcting his unfortunate advice on the milk, the model would suggest that the use of thin china cups with lids would be beneficial.
Nigel Fitzpatrick

My preference is never add sugar AND NEVER ADD MILK. How else does one gauge the quality of the tea and absorb its essence ? When needing to 'add' something, try a slender crystal of port or cognac set near the tea cup.
D. Schenke

I agree with George Orwell: tea first and then milk. This method was confirmed as the correct one when I had the wonderful opportunity to attended High Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. Tea at the Empress is a Canadian tradition not to be missed.

As the tea brews in the pot, it gets stronger, so, for a more consistent "cuppa", the milk should be added last (but I generally add it first anyway unless it has been sitting for a while). Contrary to George Orwell, it is the sugar that brings out the full flavour. Try any herbal tea, or anything like "lemongrass or any native berry leaf tea" as you would find in Sierra Leone, and they are flavourless without sugar.
Peter Walker

There are often two reasons given for putting the milk in first. One is that if a smaller quantity of milk is poured into the much larger and much hotter volume of tea, it will be scalded, or "cooked," and this will affect the taste. However, I have never been able to see such a difference myself. The second reason given is that fine china can be cracked if very hot liquid is poured into it. The cold milk at the bottom will moderate the thermal shock. As we tend to drink tea in mugs, a la George Orwell, this is not a consideration!
Mike Jones

Brewed from leaves (not teabags) Served without milk or sugar
John Veerman

In Britain, it may be quite all right to pour in the milk or cream after the tea. In Canada, our dairy products are kept much colder. Adding an icy cold product to extremely hot tea can lead to curdling - definately not a desired effect. Therefore, when in Rome etc. but here at home pour the tea last.
Paul Lewis

I was so happy to hear George pours his milk after. I was brought up doing just that, but after meeting English friends while living in Toronto I went along with them in pouring my milk first. Thanks to George, I shall go back to earlier habits! Also, I was not surprised to read about how much tea Canadians drink. I bet the majority is in the Maritimes. A good cuppa has been my cure for every ache, pain or problem I have had all my life. I might add I am in perfect health for a 60 year old lady! Many thanks for your tea column it was wonderful.
Anne Coughlan

The milk should go in first to avoid staining the teacup. I don't know that it makes any difference in taste, but it surely keeps the cups cleaner

I like my tea strong, and I either buy it or have it sent to me by friends and relatives from Murchie's in Vancouver or Victoria. My favourite tea is something called UVA Highland Ceylon. (Should be Sri Lanka, of course). I use filtered water, which I always measure, and I place a heaping teaspoonful per cup in a tea ball. I pour in the boiling water, and let it steep for five minutes exactly, timing it with an egg timer. I add Demarara sugar, and then 2% milk, which I heat a bit beforehand. Fantastic! Not as stunning a drink as coffee, but just as satisfying overall, better for you, and doesn't produce upset stomach!
C. Alexandrowicz

This is in fact feedback on `The sip that civilizes' By DEIRDRE KELLY, The Globe and Mail. She refers to Scottish eggs on that page - the people are Scottish, but the eggs are Scotch (like the whisky).

According to ISO 3103-1980 (also BS 6008:1980) section 7.2.2,: [milk should be added first] to avoid scalding the milk, unless this procedure is contrary to the normal practice in the organization concerned' If the milk is added afterwards, experience has shown that the best results are obtained when the temperature of the liquor [of tea] is in the range 65 to 80 degrees C when the milk is added. (that's it for ISO 3103/BS6008) I recall a discussion of this issue in the weekly magazine New Scientist some years ago. Apparently, the reason for the above is this: there are bitter tasting chemicals in tea, and chemicals in milk called caseins (IIRC). The caseins react with the bitter chemicals in the tea to form non-bitter chemicals. This reaction only works properly within a particular temperature range: if the temperature is too high, the casein molecules fall apart before they get to react; and if the temperature is too low, the reaction doesn't occur at all. Rowland. For black tea, since I'm lactose intolerant, nice and strong, but with just a touch of sugar to give it some flavour. Since I started working in Japan, I've acquired a real taste for Japanese green tea. They serve it at the schools I work at all the time, and it's a nice way to relax between classes. They also serve it free at most restaurants, and I tell you, if you can't drink sake or beer for some reason (ie, you're driving there's nothing better with sushi than green tea.)
Blain Armstrong

Tea is best served with hot milk. If the milk is hot, it gives the tea a richer fuller taste.
Annie A. Singh

Tea is best served from a teapot, steeped for about 2-3 minutes. I believe tea served in china cups, with oval bottoms, not the low flat type, tastes best. I always add milk last, as I like a strong cup of tea, I like the amount of milk to be just right, and I can regulate it better that way. I have a theory why milk is sometimes added first, and that is the cup is not as easily stained.

I heartily agree with George Orwell's guidelines, EXCEPT for the milk. I put my milk in first for the simple reason that I don't need to stir it. The turbulence created by the tea being poured on top of it does the work! I have always been a tea lover. It has great psychological effects. It calms me down. It helps me think when I am writing a paper. It is the only beverage that helps make things better when all the world seems to be collapsing in chaos around me. A pot of tea and a couple of friends around the table are a great stimulant to conversation. Unlike coffee, it doesn't leave a lousy aftertaste in your mouth. And when I drink tea I am sharing in a ritual that millions of people from very diverse cultures enjoy, from Arabs to South Asians to the Chinese.
Jane McCall

Milk should be added sparingly and last. Too much milk masks the flavour.
Chrystal Perrin

Milk in tea? How ghastly!
Helena Fox

It's my understanding that the reason that the milk used to go into the cup first began during the days before pasteurization. At least that's what I was told growing up in England. It was thought that by pouring the very hot tea onto the milk, any bacteria would be killed. It certainly makes no sense nowadays.

Tea must be fresh, water must be boiling hot, and it is best without sugar and only a dash of low-fat milk. If taken, milk should be added last. If making tea in a pot (preferable, but not always possible) it should be stirred before pouring.
Karen Dyck

No milk
Julien Landriault

I prefer my tea with lemon and no milk! However, we were always taught to put milk last, after the tea had been poured. This appeared to be (in some circles) a more polite way.
Burlington, ON

It should go last, otherwise you'd diminish the strength of the tea
Rose Katz

I think that it is irrelevant today whether the milk goes in first or last. The habit of pooring the milk in first has a very practical origin: the commonly used "china" used to be of somewhat less than good quality, developing those tiny spider-line cracks when shocked by the boiling hot liquid. Putting in milk first managed to alleviate that unsightly problem almost entirely. Thus, today with the better quality china, one has a choice to satisfy each individual's preference. Enjoy!
U. J. Mattes

Apparently this issue harks back a few hundred years to the drafty castles of Great Britain. It was supposedly a sign of good breeding to put the milk in first, but, in fact, it had quite a practical importance. Putting the milk in the cold china tea cup first prevented the fragile cup from cracking from the hot tea! I learned this, and other tea lore, while living in Britain for 6 years. In fact - I had to "apprentice" as a tea maker in the office for 6 months before flying solo! As a foreigner, I couldn't be entirely trusted with such an important task as tea-making!

Three factors must be considered when preparing tea: tea leaf/water ratio, water temperature, and infusion (steeping) time. 1. Place 1 gm (one level teaspoon) of fresh leaves into a brewing teapot for every 450 mL of tea (1 teacup contains 170 mL). 2. Heat water to 80 degrees C (180 F) (when small bubbles start to appear) and pour 450 mL into a brewing teapot for each teaspoon of leaves. Do not boil water as oxygen is lost which is necessary for tea flavor. 3. After a 5 minute infusion period, stir the tea and pour it through a strainer into a serving teapot. This prevents the tea from becoming bitter. Drink from a tea bowl. If it is too hot to hold, it is too hot to drink. Water at the lower temperature enhances extraction of flavenoids for flavor and bouquet but reduces that of caffeine. With fresh tea leaves, roughly half will float and half will sink.
Norman S. Track

As an ex-Brit and Canadian citizen for almost 50 years, your piece on the tea ritual brought back many happy memories. Milk should ALWAYS be put in first. It saves the bother of stirring and "cooks" the milk nicely. Any avid tea drinker can judge how much milk you need. NEVER serve tea in a mug of hot water in which is placed a tea bag. NEVER make tea in large quantities - it simply doesn't work as coffee does. "Stewed" tea is a vile concoction. NEVER rush your tea break. Tea is meant to be a soothing, quiet break from the hassles of life. If you're in a rush, have coffee at Tim Hortons by all means, and even they will serve you tea in a tea-pot if you ask. ALWAYS make tea with freshly boiled water. Deirdre Kelly got it right. Her piece was well put. Oh yes - tea is also very much a masculine drink and a mixed company tea ritual is very civilized.
Cheers, John Fisher

I believe the 'ritual' of serving tea is as important as the tea itself. However, the tea ceremony in Canada has lost something. I was invited to a ceremonial occasion with high tea in Calgary, and they served chocolate chip cookies and heavy sandwiches along with the scones, and the tea was poured from a spout of a large urn. IMH opinion, chocolate chip cookies and sandwiches do not belong at a high tea. As to the milk going in first, well I do agree that it should go in last. One also should have the option to choose (or be served) from a dish of sliced lemons. From a Canadian Senior who loves ceremony!

Tea is best served HOT in fine china. Milk in tea? Not in my cup-a!!

I am English, and was always under the impression milk was put in china cups first, so that the hot tea didn't crack the cup. Also at school we were taught this little rhyme. The kettle must be boiling The teapot must be hot Or else a good cup of tea is never to be got
Jeane Clyne

Good tea can be made only from loose tea leaves and fresh boiling water. Putting hot water in a cup, sticking a tea bag in and then squashing or dunking the tea bag repeatedly to "get the flavour out" will not produce anything even remotely tea-like.
Evelyn Peters McLellan

Western teas and Chinese teas: Milk should definitely go in last, especially if you are using tea bags. The water must be boiling hot in order to get the full flavour of the tea leaves (preferrably loose leaves), and adding milk first in the case of tea bags will drop the temperature. If you are using loose leaf tea, you should still add the milk last as your tea can vary in concentration, and getting the right tint of milky golden colour is how I figure out if I've added enough milk. Also, make sure you put the leaves first in the teapot and then add the boiling water to the pot, not vice versa. Contrary to George Orwell, I would recommend using at least 2% milk. Using low-fat milk at such a small quantity makes almost little or no difference for a diet-conscious person, and plus using 2% or higher gives the tea a more desirable consistency than skim/low-fat. Purist tea connoisseurs don't use sugar, but adding sweetness to teas, especially in the morning, can help to give you that extra boost. I would recommend honey or plantation sugar over the bleached white stuff, and no more than one teaspoon to 8 oz. More than that and you mask the flavour of the tea. In the case of green teas, they are best taken straight, no milk or sugar, just like Chinese teas, which in my opinion are some of the best teas in the world. They are very cleansing and soothing. Chinese tea is traditionally made using loose leaf tea, not tea bags. The tea leaves are put in the pot first; then boiling water is added afterwards (never vice-versa). Jasmine teas ("moot lay") are quite popular. Whenever I go to have dim sum, I usually order "guk bo", which is a combination of chrysanthemum ("guk fa") tea and "bo lay" tea. "Teet goon yum" (literally iron buddha) is also a popular choice. A special sweet treat is Hong Kong style tea, which is a very strong black tea brewed from whole tea leaves, and added to it is condensed milk and sugar (it is so strong that it is quite bitter when taken straight). This style of tea can be served hot or iced, and can be found at almost any wonton house. I would recommend Goldstone restaurant on Spadina Ave. in Toronto --their Hong Kong style tea is delicious!
F. Chan

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