Why do the English drink milk with their tea?
Damien from Nottingham wrote:
People from around the world often wonder why the English drink milk with their tea. The answer is that in the 17th and 18th centuries the china cups tea was served in were so delicate they would crack from the heat of the tea. Milk was added to cool the liquid and stop the cups from cracking. This is why, even today, many English people add milk to their cups BEFORE adding the tea!
My Grandmother always said, ›Milk in tea, apart from reducing the bitterness, reduced the staining in china cups.‹
Due to its high price, lower classes couldn't really afford tea, however milk was cheap. So the lower (poorer) classes filled their cups with cheaper milk and added but a dash of the valuable tea, while the higher (richer) classes could afford to add a dash of milk to a cup of tea (in answer 3 it is said that they did this to water down the rather bitter taste of the tea). Up to this day, people do pay close attention to whether you add milk to the tea, or tea to the milk. While per se this makes no difference to the actual flavour, it does indicate which class your family is from.
I must point out that milk on tea tastes good. That is all.
It has nothing to do with class. I pour milk into my cup first as it does an 'automatic' stir and that means I don't have to use a spoon. I can also see exactly how much milk I've added. Nothing nastier than milky tea. I come from an upper class family line and, as far as I know, we have all made our tea in that way.
When the British discovered tea in China, the ruling Manchun drank their tea sweetened and with milk. This was adopted by the British as the right way to drink tea. When the British started producing tea in India (instead of buying it from the Chinese) they took this tradition with them, causing an increase in tea drinking in India which they then developed into chai (sweet spiced milk with tea)
Most Chinese have low lactose tolerance so it seems unlikely the Brits copied milk in tea from them.
If you know other reasons, send an e-mail, please.