Add Milk in First or Last?
This question has divided tea drinkers for quite some time. Pouring the milk in last was considered to be the proper thing to do in refined social circles, but the reason for this is often overlooked. In the early days of tea drinking, poor quality cups were inclined to crack when hot tea was poured into them, and putting the milk in first helped to prevent this. When finer and stronger materials came into use, this practice was no longer necessary. Pouring the milk in last became a way of showcasing that one had the finest china on one’s table.
There is good reason for adding milk last. If you are drinking an unfamiliar tea, it is easier to judge the correct amount of milk to add once you have seen the strength and colour of the tea. On the other hand, pouring the milk in first means that the fat in the milk emulsifies in a different manner when the tea is poured. This alters the flavour of the tea, providing for an even more creamier flavour. It also cools the tea slightly to a more acceptable drinking temperature.