- Aug 5, 2004
The British are used to it, but we wondered, why put milk in tea? Turns out it's not about taste, but to keep china cups from breaking.
The Brits’ habit of putting milk in tea extends all the way back to the 18th century, from the time when tea was brewed in pots. Tea was a big deal at the time, and people tended to drink it out of china cups. However, most people couldn’t afford fancy fine bone china, and the cups available would crack from the heat of the boiling hot tea.
The solution? Pour milk into the cup first, then add the tea. The cold milk cooled down the tea enough to keep the china from breaking, and, well, the reduced bitterness was just an added benefit! According to some sources, tea was also incredibly valuable at the time, so families who couldn’t afford large amounts would add a large amount of milk and a splash of tea, while well-off families tended to do the opposite.