Milk and tea have been served together for centuries. Some people claim it’s for taste, some for temperature, and there are countless other reasons people put milk in their tea so frequently. This does lead to the question of how putting milk in tea started? In other words, why do we put milk in tea?

Traditionally, we put milk in tea for the simple reason of avoiding the china cracking. The original reason for putting milk in tea had nothing to do with taste, but about the strength of the china. In 18th Century Britain, the china used to drink tea couldn’t withstand the heat of the tea being poured in and would crack. By pouring milk in the cup first and pouring the tea in second from the pot it was brewed in, it would prevent the china teacups from cracking under the heat. Though, another theory put forth is that milk helped avoid staining on the cup. As most people couldn’t afford more than one china set and seeing as drinking tea is a prevalent pastime in the UK, keeping their china in good condition was incredibly important.

Of course, as the strength of china and mugs has become enough to withstand the heat of the tea, the reasons for putting milk in tea may have more to do with taste than the teacup now.

Related: Why Should You Put Milk in Your Tea First?

What Are the Best Teas to Put Milk In?

At the end of the day, tea is all about personal preferences. If you only like tea straight, then putting milk or sugar in the tea wouldn’t be advised, whereas the opposite is true for people who find it too bitter. The best way to be sure of your preference when trying a new tea is to take a test sip of the tea before putting any milk or sugar in it at all. However, there are some trends amongst which teas are more popular with milk and sugar and some recommendations from tea enthusiasts that you can take into consideration.

Black teas, for example, have bold and strong tastes that are often better enjoyed with milk and sugar to help tame the flavor. Black teas would include Darjeeling, Keemun, and Assam, and they’re often served with milk and sugar.

Tea blends like Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea are also commonly enjoyed with either addition of milk and sugar. Earl Grey, in England, is often served with a splash of lemon, but in the United States, it’s much more commonly enjoyed with milk and sugar.

Green teas, white teas, oolong teas, and pu-erh teas are often served as-is without milk or sugar. There are a host of reasons why any individual may choose to drink these without the addition of milk or sugar. Still, the consensus is that they’re too delicate in flavor to need or warrant any milk, sugar or honey.

What Are Milk Teas?

Milk tea, or otherwise known as Bubble Tea, has grown in popularity over the years. Milk tea, as the name implies, is just a black tea with milk added. There are many types of bubble tea, some with more fruity teas and less milk, but the most common type is milk tea with tapioca or boba added to give it the “bubble” name.

Milk tea can be served hot or cold, as a cold bubble tea or as a milk tea latte as a hot drink. In many parts of Asia, when you order tea, they will give you milk tea. Ordering tea without milk is done by asking for “tea without milk” instead of just “tea” as it is in the West. Adding milk to tea, as done in milk tea, it makes the tea smoother and taste a bit sweeter than it does when it is served without. This reason is why it is so prevalent in Bubble Teas, with brown sugar or liquid sugars, as it is smooth, sweet, and thus more popular than just bitter black teas. It can also be served in Masala Chai Tea, which is another form of milk tea as well.

The most popular types of milk tea are Boba/Bubble Tea, Masala Chai, British Milk Tea, Tea Latte, Thair Iced Tea, and Yuan Yang. These were mostly popularized in Asia before coming to the West and booming in popularity. Most likely, the popularity boom was created because the sweetness of the tea is agreeable with many people, and even non-tea drinkers find milk tea tasty.

In general, what makes milk tea different than tea with milk added is the amount of milk added. As milk tea can be served hot or cold, it may be hard to distinguish between a regular cup of tea with milk and milk tea. Regularly, most teas do not need a lot of milk in it and, on average, only have a teaspoon of milk added. Milk tea, on the other hand, is often equal parts milk and water, such as in the case of masala chai tea. To give milk tea, the smoothness it is known for it needs more milk than the average tea, whether it be cold milk for bubble tea or steamed/warmed milk for warm milk tea.

Is It Recommended to put Milk in Tea?

It is generally accepted that many teas have health benefits on their own. However, the question of whether or not adding milk to the tea diminishes these health effects is on many people’s minds.

The answer is, unfortunately, complicated; truth be told that if you want to ensure all of the health benefits of your tea, you’d be better off holding the milk. Scientists suggest that putting honey or lemon in your tea may be better than adding milk if you are looking not to spoil the health effects. It is found that tea without milk in it relaxes blood vessels, whereas tea with milk does not. However, if you are someone that finds tea with a teaspoon or so of milk in it soothing and relaxing at the end of the day, that benefit may be worth more to you than the milk will take away.

Essentially? It’s up to you as to whether or not you enjoy tea with milk or not. Adding milk to your tea may diminish some of the health benefits of drinking tea, but it will not have severe repercussions on your health. Making it up to you whether or not you think those benefits outweigh your enjoyment of the milk in your tea.

Milk in tea has been around for a long time, and though it may have started as a way to avoid the breaking of china, it is clearly here to stay regardless of mug strength. There are many ways to enjoy tea, sugar, honey, lemon or milk, to name a few, but it’s hard to argue that the most popular way is a splash of milk to smoothen out the tea.

Whether or not you find the health benefits of tea too essential to add milk, or if you are a bubble tea enthusiast, there is no wrong way to drink tea. In the end, it is all about personal preference and enjoyment in the taste of the tea you love the most. Though there may be arguments from tea snobs, there is no reason to believe that the amount of milk you put in your tea ruins the tea, as it is all about personal preferences.