For some purists, putting milk in loose leaf tea just isn’t done. It disrupts the natural flavor of the tea and ruins the taste. For others, certain teas are incomplete without milk.
In Britain, milk tea in the afternoon is a lifestyle staple, and in countries like Mongolia drinking tea thickened with butter is the norm. As a discerning tea connoisseur, you ought to forge a middle path between these two extremes.
Here’s a guide to putting milk in your loose leaf tea.
Best Teas That Go Well With Milk
Not all teas go well with milk. Put milk in your oolong tea and you’ll have a very strange and unpalatable combination indeed.
The best teas for milk tea are generally black teas. Chai is a particularly popular choice as the uplifting spice flavor cuts through the creaminess of the milk, adding complexity to the taste of the resulting drink.
A hot chai tea with milk is the ideal comfort drink for a freezing winter’s day. English breakfast is also a safe choice.
Milk teas can also be turned into other drinks like bubble tea. I wrote a whole article on caramel milk tea, which can also be turned into bubble tea.
The traditional view is that delicate teas like white and green tea are best drunk without milk because their aromas are liable to be overpowered by the dairy flavors. The milk will neutralize the tannins in the tea and lower the acidity levels, so it may be difficult to discern the true taste of the tea.
That being said, mixing matcha powder with a blend of evaporated and steamed milk is becoming common practice – try it out and see if it works for you.
How to Add Milk to Your Tea
Even lovers of milk tea will concede that adding milk directly into your teacup is not the best way to go. Cooking with the milk is the best way to infuse all that lovely tea essence into the milk so that not a single drop is wasted.
Many connoisseurs gently roast their tea in a saucepan while adding milk at regular intervals over a low heat. If you choose this technique, it’s important to let the tea-milk infusion simmer rather than boil. At high temperatures, the smell of the milk will overpower the fragrance of the tea.
Alternatively, you could brew tea in a teapot, give it 2 to 3 minutes to rest and cool down, and add milk slowly and in small doses to prevent over-dilution.
Choosing the Right Milk
Selecting the right milk is simple. The lighter the taste of the tea, the lighter the milk you should use. Strong black teas can be drunk with creamy full-fat milk while evaporated or lightly steamed low-fat milk will allow the natural taste of matcha tea to shine.
If you do it right, milk tea can be a wonderful way to enjoy loose leaf tea. Keep an open mind, experiment and see what works for you!