If you buy something through a link in our posts, we may get a small share of the sale.
Last Updated on October 7, 2022 by Scott
While there are many different types of tea that you can drink with milk, the most popular is a classic black tea.
Black milk tea is consumed by people all around the world, from England to India to Hong Kong. Within this article, we will cover the following subjects:
- History of drinking tea with milk
- Milk in tea culture
- Types of teas that go best with milk
- Vegan alternatives for milk in tea
History of Drinking Tea With Milk in Europe
Originally, tea was consumed without milk. When the tea plant was first discovered in China in 2737 BC, it would have been considered an affront to add milk. However, over the next few millenia things began to change.
When tea was brought over to Europe in the 17th century, the quality of the leaves was extremely low. Partly due to the long sea voyages, partly due to improper storage, the tea was almost completely undrinkable.
As such, one of the key theories as to why milk was first added to tea is because the milk would soften the unpalatable harshness of the brew, tame the flavors, and add a slight sweetness.
Another theory suggests that Madame de la Sabliere was the first person to start the trend of adding milk to tea. At that time, European porcelain teacups were very thin and liable to crack, and as such, in Sabliere added milk to her tea to temper the cup and stop it from breaking.
Milk in Tea Culture
However, by that point, milk was already a part of the tea culture in places such as Tibet.
In the high altitudes, Tibetan people would add dairy (namely butter) to their tea both for nutritional reasons and to stave off hunger.
Along with that, while many assume that India’s masala chai was always made with milk, in the 1850’s the beverage was just a mix of spices and sugar. Then, when the British headed east to colonize, black tea leaves were added to the blend.
In the 20th century, traders and travelers realized they could increase the flavor of the chai without increasing the price, all by adding milk. India is now known for this creamy, sweet, and spicy brew.
Over time, brews such as the British Builder’s Breakfast were developed. This is a sweet and milky brew which is said to have originated when employers would encourage workers to add milk to their tea in order to cut down break times. Plus, the sugar would help sustain the workers so that they could work even harder for longer.
Types of Tea That Go Best With Milk
The tea which tends to go best with milk is usually a black tea, due to the higher oxidation and tannin levels. You will find that the flavors of these teas are significantly stronger than those with low oxidation and low tannins.
Some of the best teas which go well with milk are blends which have been made exactly with this in mind. For example, English Breakfast is typically made especially strong with the intention that the flavor will be mellowed out by milk.
When choosing a tea to go with milk, you should keep an eye out for Assam, Ceylon, Kenyan, and Keemun. These are all strong and robust black teas which stand very well when a splash of milk is added.
Vegan Alternatives for Milk in Tea
You will have noticed there are now many different milk tea options on the market. These include:
- Builder’s Breakfast
- Boba Tea
- Tea Latte
- Hong Kong Milk Tea
- Masala Chai
- London Fog
- Teh Tarik
- East Frisian Tea
But what do you do when you can’t have milk?
Luckily, there are plenty of vegan and lactose-free options for those who can’t have milk. You will easily find these alternatives at stores, cafes, and restaurants.
- Soy milk: Often the cheapest option for those looking for a plant milk, soy milk is a great dairy-free option for tea. The main downside, however, is that the acid in tea can result in the soy milk splitting, so you may want to first warm the milk.
- Nut milk: Nut milks such as almond, hazelnut, and cashew are great for malty brews such as a Builder’s Breakfast. They usually have a slight sweetness to them, meaning that you might just be able to use a teaspoon less of sugar.
- Oat milk: One of the most subtle options of the vegan milk category, oat milk is great for brews that are a little less intense. Plus, it will never split!
- Coconut milk: Coconut milk has the strongest flavor in this list, which is great for those who love coconut. This type of milk goes best with slightly citrus-y teas such as Earl Grey. Don’t believe us? Go try it!
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.