Finding out the solution to the age-old debate of how to properly prepare a tea is complicated at best, and in the end, it is left to personal preference above all else. That still leaves the question of if there is one method that is recommended above all else. Should the milk go in the tea first?

The answer is surprisingly complicated, depending on how you make your tea. According to George Orwell, putting the milk in the teacup first is the correct way to make a tea. The reason he says milk should go in first is that if you pour the boiling water over the milk, it will heat the milk evenly. If you put the milk in second, then proteins in the milk will lose their structure and clump up.

However, putting your milk in first only applies if you steep your tea in a teapot before pouring it into the mug. If you put the teabag in the mug and then pour the hot water over the tea in the mug, then the opposite is true. This is because the tea leaves should be heated to brew properly, putting the milk in before the water will cool the water too quickly and affect the brewing.

There it is, according to George Orwell himself the answer to the question of “should milk go in first” is usually yes. However, that does leave the question of what is the best milk to use in tea? With tea being a staple of UK culture, there is heated debate as to a lot of aspects to their beloved tea. There are some general consonances on which milk is considered the best milk for tea, but more than that, there are countless milk alternatives to suit any dietary needs.

Related: Why Do People Put Milk in Tea?

What is the Best Milk to Use in Tea?

The most common types of milk used in tea are whole or 2% milk. These kinds of milk are most popular because of the fat in the tea that helps smooth out the tea and makes them both good for most teas, and especially black tea. The natural sweetness of cow’s milk and the creamy texture is a great compliment to many of the bitter, slightly harsher tea blends. Of course, these are not the only options; there other non-dairy and various milk options that are frequently used as well.

The easiest rule to remember when it comes to tea, however, is that it is very easily agreed upon that cream in milk is never recommended in any tea. The hard minerals, calcium, and other impurities in the cream will absolutely destroy the delicate flavor of your tea, and it’s much worse for your health than milk is anyway. As such, creamer is never meant for tea and instead should stay in your coffee.

What are the Best Milk Alternatives for Tea?

There are some people who love tea but have dietary restrictions that make them incapable of drinking milk. For example, it is estimated that about 65% of people are lactose intolerant. When drinking the tea black is out of the question because of personal preferences, there are many milk alternatives that you can consider when it comes to making an acceptable tea.

Soy Milk

This milk alternative, like many, has a bit of a creamy texture. Soy milk may split because of the sudden difference in temperature between the milk and the tea. To avoid this, you can try to warm the milk a bit before putting it into your tea. Soy milk has become increasingly popular as one of the best plant-based milk alternatives. It’s less sweet than almond milk and thusly won’t change the flavour of your tea too dramatically.

● Almond Milk

Almond milk is sweeter than soy milk, as some blends of almond milk have vanilla added, and the milk is, as the name suggests, derived from almonds. This is by far the most well-known milk alternative and one of the most popular in general. Just like soy milk, almond milk can split when it’s put in the tea cold, but the same solution of warming the milk can solve that problem easily.

● Oat Milk

Oat milk isn’t nearly as well known as almond milk, but because of it’s subtle flavour and natural sweetness, many say it tastes the most like cow’s milk of the milk alternatives. On its own, it is smooth and creamy and is well suited to making tea when 2% or whole milk is out of the question. Best of all, you don’t need to worry about it splitting when used in tea.

● Hemp Milk

If you are avoiding soy and nuts, hemp milk may be the best milk alternative you can hope for when making the perfect cup of tea. Like oat milk, it won’t split when put in hot water. It does have a bit of an unusual taste, however, and it tends to be a bit thicker than other milk alternatives. However, it is still a solid choice if you have reason to avoid the nut and soy-based alternatives on this list.

● Rice Milk

Again, like hemp milk, this is a great option if you have more sensitivities to other types of milk alternatives. This is the least allergenic of the milk alternatives there is and has a mild naturally sweet taste. It is a little watery in comparison to the other alternatives and is high in carbohydrates when compared to cow’s milk. If that doesn’t bother you, and you have dietary sensitivities and allergies to many milk alternatives, this alternative may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Though there are undoubtedly more milk alternatives that you could consider, like Macadamia Milk, Quinoa Milk, Cashew Milk, the ones on this list are among the most popular alternatives there are. Whether you are avoiding milk because of an intolerance, dietary restrictions, or ethical reasons like being vegan, there are many options to consider when looking for the best alternative for milk.

The best way to ensure that you make your perfect cup of tea is to test the different alternatives and always test the tea with just the milk in it before adding sweetener. Each alternative has something different about them when it comes to texture, flavor and compatibility to your favorite tea, so trying as many as you can is advised.

For many people, milk is an essential aspect of their enjoyment in their tea. It has been a long-standing tradition, and though many people stand by their own methods of making tea, milk is often a staple of the process.

Depending on how you make your tea, whether it be steeped in a teapot on the side or in your cup directly, the method changes the order in which your milk should be put in. Most recommend that milk should go in first, but in the end, it is up to personal preference. Just as what kind of milk you use for your perfect cup, whether you swear by the traditional 2% milk or a milk alternative of your choice, there is no “right way” for individuals to enjoy their tea in the morning.

The only strongly advised rule is never to put cream in your tea. Other than that rule, there is nothing against trying different types of milk before settling on one. There is a world of milk and milk alternatives out there for you to choose from.

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