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The great tea controversy: Should you put milk in first or last?

Liverpool Echo logo Liverpool Echo 21/04/2017 Liam O'Brien
Credits: Chris Ison/PA Wire © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Liverpool is the UK’s tea-drinking capital, with the average Scouser downing four cups a day.

But when it comes to making a cuppa it’s clear that the city is deeply divided.

For some, putting the milk in first lends the tea a creamy, even flavour.

For others, putting the milk in anything other than last is the road to ruin.

Helena Appleton of Tea House on Lark Lane drinks “10 cups of tea a day if not more”. She said when people first started drinking tea in bone china, they would put the milk in first to avoid cracking the cup.

But by the time posh author Evelyn Waugh was writing in the 20th Century, better cups were available, and his description of someone as a “milk-in-first’ sort of person was a derogatory way of saying they were too poor to afford better quality porcelain.

George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984, also put the milk in last so he could properly regulate the amount going in.

But Debrett’s - the etiquette guide - claims milk should go in first, while Fortnum & Mason states that while both methods bring about different flavours, it is a matter of preference.

We asked some tea experts to find out their views on this most controversial of subjects.

Typhoo, based in Wirral

Credits: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire Typhoo tea tasters consume 600 cups a day, so they know what they’re on about when it comes to tea.

Thomas McCarthy, tea buying and blending executive at Typhoo, said: “Our tasters with over 70 years’ experience put the tea bag in first and brew with freshly boiled water. This retains the temperature of the boiling water, allowing the tea to infuse properly.

“In turn, this allows for full release of colour and flavour in the cup profile, which can be better assessed by our tasters without the dilution of milk. Putting milk in first can reduce the temperature of the boiling water when added and inhibit the full infusion and qualities of the brewed tea. However, a cup of tea is a personal experience and we all have our own creature comforts to make a ‘perfect’ cup of tea for our bespoke requirements – that’s just the way our tasters do it!”

Typhoo said the blend of tea was just as if not more important.

Tea House on Lark Lane

Helena Appleton of the Tea House puts the milk in first because she knows exactly the right amount of milk for her. But if you’re not a brew-making pro it could be worth exercising caution by putting the milk in last.

Leaf on Bold Street

According to a spokesperson from this tea specialist cafe: “The beauty of our loose leaf tea is that it is perfectly brewed in its own teapot before pouring, so as long as you have your favourite blend in your favourite cup, the rest is down to personal preference!”

Brew Tea, Manchester

This tea company’s message was clear: “Black tea needs to be brewed at 100 degrees for three to five minutes to unleash its best flavours. If you pour milk in whilst brewing, you’re going to get a pretty lame cup of tea.”

Related: Tea customs around the world

Tea is what unites many cultures and, at the same time sets them apart. Different countries have their own customs and ways of preparing a tea. Following slides talk about ten tea customs of the world. Tea customs around the world


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