Which teas can you add milk to?

Perhaps one of the reasons why tea and coffee are such popular drinks is that they are a blank canvas. You can have them hot or cold (try my recipe for a refreshing ice tea), with a little milk, a lot or no milk at all, frothed or not, with one, two or however many spoons of sugar you prefer, or perhaps you’re the special syrup type of drinker.

One of the founders in the company I work for has a T-shirt with his tea preference. Many people get customised mugs with it. Everyone has their preference. My mum loves a vanilla latte. I, as you’ve probably guessed from the title, like my black tea with milk and no sugar. Though I like white tea too so I’ve been a bit cheeky there!

Milk first or last?

The habit of starting with milk comes from the time when Westerners first discovered the pleasure of drinking tea. They poured milk in first to prevent their fine bone china or porcelain from breaking when the boiling tea was added from the teapot. Times have changed though, many people now make tea directly in cups and mugs which are much stronger. And unless you know what you’re doing, you can ruin a good cup of tea by adding too much of the white stuff. I recommend adjusting the milk ratio after the tea is prepared.

Black tea but not all of it!

Now that you know there is more to tea than a builder’s brew, it’s time to introduce you to tea varieties. Depending on where the teas are grown and when they are picked, tea leaves have a certain aroma, flavour and stregth. They can be consumed as a standalone variety or in a blend – the way most people prefer them. Take the popular English Breakfast for example – it’s a blend of three varieties: Kenyan for colour, Assam for strength, body and maltiness and Ceylon for aroma and adding complexity to the flavour. It really does sound like a recipe for success, no wonder Queen Victoria loved it so much.

Out of those three, it’s the Assam that has a full enough body to hold the blend’s taste when milk is added. Otherwise you’d just taste a watered down version of milk. So, which teas and blends are suitable?

  • Add milk to: Breakfast blends like English Breakfast (also Irish, Melbourne, etc.), Assam, Keemun, Lapsang Souchong.
  • Don’t add milk to Darjeeling, Ceylon, Afternoon tea, Earl or Lady Grey.
Melbourne Breakfast from T2 with milk is one of my hubby’s favourite teas

​​​Rooibos or Redbush

If your personal preference is to stay off caffeine, you can still enjoy a milky tea. Try Rooibos or Redbush – a South African herbal tea that is made with the needles of a bush. It’s similar in colour and flavour to an English Breakfast (as similar as a herbal tea can be) and it holds its own well with a splash of milk.

Vanilla Rooibos Dragonfly Tea with milk

Matcha – the new health craze

A very popular drink with the health conscious at the moment, matcha is the powdered form of special green tea bushes, such as Gyokuro, from Japan that are grown shaded from the sun. Japanese green teas are generally really earthy, a bit like the taste of boiled spinach, and this one is no exception. The traditional way of preparing it is using a bamboo whisk to blend it with water. However, Westerners prefer to add it to smoothies and cakes for an antioxidant kick, or to mix it with frothed milk as an alternative to a latte. Because of its strong, bitter taste, it’s probably the only type of tea that I like to add honey or a lemony syrup to. I’ve never tried cooking with it before, but I’ll do some experiments and let you know!

That’s it! Don’t add milk to green, white, Oolong or other herbal teas as they won’t hold their flavour. Also, if you normally add lemon to your tea (a popular habit in Europe), avoid adding milk as well as you’ll end up with a curdled mess!

Until next time!

How to make a natural and refreshing ice tea

I know, it’s been a while since I last posted but I haven’t forgotten my readers or my mission. I made a promise to help you discover tea and I will keep it because there is such an exciting world of flavours and aromas waiting for you! Life just got in the way a little bit as it always does but I’m back, with more energy, drive and passion than before.

We still have a long journey of discovery ahead, but no prepared explorer leaves without supplies. As it’s summertime, I thought we should take some refreshing ice tea with us, so I’m sharing my top tips on making a natural, sugar-free brew at home.

The difference between natural and powdered ice tea

Before I share some tips, I wanted to clarify something. In many parts of the world, and particularly in the US, ice tea is a powder you mix with water and voila! Job done. But as I’ve already mentioned my stance on tea bags (hint: I run away from them as fast as I run away from spiders), you can probably imagine what I think about powdered ice tea.

It’s not that I have something against convenience, but if you read the ingredient deck on that stuff it’s very often 90% sugar or sweetener and a shocking 0.5% tea.

Ice tea the natural way

I’m going to teach you how to make a drink with 100% tea and if you want to add sugar, honey or other sweeteners, that is your own decision! I don’t judge, I’m just giving you the option.

  1. Best types of tea for ice tea – depending on your palette and preferences, pretty much any tea can make a good ice tea. If you’re a regular black coffee drinker or dark chocolate lover, black tea would be a good one to start with because you don’t mind a slightly bitter taste. Try a lighter blend or tea such as a Ceylon or Darjeeling and don’t add milk because it won’t hold its strength/taste. If you’re like me and you have a sweet tooth, I would recommend using a smooth green tea like Gunpowder or any white tea. Or better yet, opt for a blend with dried fruit and flowers to enhance the flavour. Fortnum & Mason sells a green tea and apple blend which makes a lovely cold brew!
  2. How to brew it – looking on the internet you’ll find cold and hot brew instructions for ice tea. Personally I prefer the hot method as you can add ice cubes to the tea to cool it down straight away rather than waiting for as much as 2-4 hours to steep the leaves! Add double the amount of tea you normally would or half the water. For example, in a six cup teapot you can either use 12 teaspoons of tea leaves and fill up with water or add half the amount of water to 6 teaspoons. The only difference is the quantity you’ll end up with! Leave it to steep according to the instructions – 3-5 minutes for the green tea and apple blend above, for instance. Then get a generous amount of ice cubes so you double the volume of liquid and you’re done! Ready to drink ice tea.
  3. Enhancing the flavour – cold/frozen drinks and food need to pack a punch to tickle our taste buds (that’s why melted ice cream tastes sickly sweet, whereas when it’s frozen it seems to have just the right amount of sugar). In order to prevent ice tea from tasting bitter or bland, I’d recommend adding your favourite fruit to the mix – citrus, berries and melons will add a whole other layer of deliciousness. If not, you can also add sugar, honey or other natural sweeteners just don’t be too generous with the portion!
  4. Freshness – tea tends to get a bit bitter with age, so I’d recommend drinking it in three days at most. My batches never last that long!
  5. Recommended blends – if this is your first time making ice tea (and even if it isn’t), opt for a fruity blend like the Chelsea Garden blend from Whittard, Green & Elderflower from Fortnums or Peach Sencha from Easy Teasy. Of course, if you want a non-caffeinated option, try a Vanilla Rooibos from Dragonfly Tea or Rooibos Tropica from Teavana. These are just some examples, but feel free to experiment and make your own blends too!

Putting it into practice

An iced surprise in Romania

I was travelling to Romania last summer and I encountered this lovely cafe that sold an incredible variety of tea. By far my favourite was the White Pear and Berries ice tea which you can see in the video. It not only gave me an instant, delicious and refreshing drink, but it was quite a really cool experience too. Try to replicate it at home with your guests and you’re sure to impress them!

Ready to try making ice tea? Please, please, please share your ideas and favourite recipes or blends with me. I love to try new things!