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Saturday, 19 April 2008

Milk in tea, Part I

Milk is not a taste that any tea lover wants in their tea. Who wants something that masks the flavours pure fresh taste of the tea with a creamy taste that completely changes the texture and taste of the tea? To me, the texture of milk is the worst thing. Drinking tea is like drinking water because it has such a clean and fresh texture. Milk just fills your mouth with fat and it's a bit gross.

And yet sometimes I do put milk in my tea. Kenya teas or an assams for example, have a lovely strong taste, but it is very easy to let some of the bitter tastes come out of the leaves as it brews. Milk has the amazing property that it sucks up all the bitterness with a minimal effect on the rest of the flavour. But be clear, use as little as possible, just a tiny little amount if you need it, and none at all otherwise. And in my opinion, you should use skimmed milk. Fat in your tea is distinctly manky, and that minimises the problem. Now, I don't actually like drinking milk on its own, so maybe I am biased against it, but if you want to taste the tea, you need the cup to be filled more with tea than with milk. Otherwise just drink milk, dammit!


Jo B. said...

Yep, you're biased by your dislike of pure milk. And what about chai? You have to have milk in chai. But I agree that you should only use a little, otherwise the tea tastes pathetic.

fubarite said...

Admit it: you're just trolling for comments now, aren't you? :p

Your opening gambit, that "Milk is not a taste that any tea-lover wants in their tea" is stating opinion as fact. This is clearly a highly subjective matter, and I must concur with Jo that your bias is showing; that said, there are a few points I feel I must raise.

Firstly, my own opinion. Obviously, one needs to take this on a tea-by-tea basis, but in general I find that milk goes with most black and rooibos teas in an entirely satisfactory manner, without any loss of subtleties of flavour. As you yourself note, milk has "a minimal effect on the rest of the flavour". Milk in green tea I would personally feel to be a mistake, but I would not wish to be judgemental.

I would have to take issue with your claim that milk destroys the texture of the tea: unless you absolutely saturate your mug with the stuff (and I've never met anyone who does, except with chai), the change in texture is almost imperceptible. "Filling your mouth with fat" it ain't. I'm pretty sure that the crap you see floating on top of your tea is the result of our thoroughly un-delimescaled kettle and the diamond-hardness of the Cambridge water rather than a plot by an evil cabal of cows to diminish the intensity of your teagasms.

Finally, on a more practical note, by dismissing milk as "a bit gross", you are potentially alienating the rest of your tea-drinking housemates, all of whom regularly indulge in a splash of semi-skimmed with their chai, rooibos or Darjeeling. Given the strong challenge that the cafetiere poses to the tea hegemony in this house, I would advise you to think twice in future before making such divisive proclamations.

Of course, far be it from me to suggest that you start liberally lacing your Oolong with dairy crest. Unlike some people, I am secure enough in my own preferences that I feel no need to make proscriptive assertions on the subject. I should warn you, though, that any attempt (perceived or actual) to install any kind of tea dictatorship in this house will be met with the strongest resistance, and may result in a coffee-fuelled uprising. I therefore urge you to retract your more controversial statements in order to stave off this potentially disastrous possibility.

Grinnyguy said...

Dear fubarite,

I am dismayed that I have caused you so much disgruntlement. My aim was not to force people to my own ways of doing things, set up a teatatorship or anything else. I therefore apologise for anything that was stated as fact, because of course it is all opinion. However, there are people out there who believe that only one type of tea exists: a supermarket teabag with milk (and sometimes sugar). More than anything else, this post was a reaction to that, saying that milk is not a part of tea, it is an addition that you can choose to have or not. Perhaps the first sentence should have read "Tea is the main taste that all tea lovers want in their tea, milk can only complement it". I hope I made it more clear later in the post that tea with some milk is ok.

I do disagree with you that the texture is not altered by milk. Even if you don't put in enough milk to taste the cream, there is some difference in texture. And I also maintain that adding milk stops tea from having the same freshness, which is really important for some of the lighter teas.

I would like to emphasize that I do put milk in some tea, and it even makes the tea taste better. I don't like it when the milk starts to overrun the flavour or when you can taste the cream though, and I encounter that quite often - and a tea that is spoiled saddens me, especially if I have to drink it! Hence the comment to "use as little as possible". My list of two types of tea for milk is of course not exhaustive. I also take milk in nilgiris, keemun and chai (probably others that I can't think of). I don't happen to take milk in darjeeling, but I'm not going to stop anyone! It's just a bit more subtle, so in my opinion adding milk must be done carefully to avoid drowning the flavours. I bet that even you would not have milk in a first flush darjeeling, though you might prove me wrong. I don't drink much rooibos, so I wouldn't like to comment on the suitability of milk. I haven't met anyone who has milk in green tea or oolong, and I think it's a bizarre idea, but then I eat the skin of a kiwi fruit, so I can hardly justify stopping someone else being weird.

Although some of my statements of opinion looked like facts, I also used the phrases "to me...", "in my opinion" and "maybe I am biased", to show that it's not a completely cut-and-dried argument . I hope we can reconcile our differences over a cuppa in the coming hours.

PS I'm not trolling for comments when I say this at all, but your idea of a "plot by an evil cabal of cows" sounds entirely plausible, even if not in this particular context!

Grinnyguy said...

On second thoughts, "Tea is NOT the main taste that all tea lovers want in their tea, milk can only complement it" might have been an even better first sentence

Jo said...

glad to have some support... thank you fubarite! and she's right John, you want to watch what you say. The coffee/tea cultural balance in this house is extremely fragile.

Rachel said...

I am highly offended! In this dairy-centric post you have ignored and alienated an entire section of readers who are just as entitled to have their opinions and experience reflected as any of your omnivorous housemates.

The vegan and lactose-intolerant communities want to know: Where do you stand on soymilk?

Grinnyguy said...

jo b: please don't go to the coffee side! You know it's darker in every way! I tried chai (the one from the local indian supermarket) without milk and it tastes surprisingly good, though I agree with you that it is the traditional way to have lots of milk in chai.

Rachel: I have barely drunk it so I don't actually know much about soy milk. But I'd like to point out, this is only part I, and at least two more parts are planned, so you don't need to be too offended yet. Thank you for your ideas of what to go into future posts. I will look into soy milk and give you an opinion, though I guess that my first impression of it will not be as valid as the impression of it from someone who has given it a proper chance to grow on them.

You grinny-bashers out there will be pleased to know that my views on sugar, honey and lemon in tea are all much stronger than those I hold on milk, so if I ever blog about that, you'll have a field day!