What tea are you drinking right now?
I bought it from Hazelmere Café & Bakery when we visited the Lake District a few months ago. I keep curving my focus back to this cup, the warmth against my hand, the smell and flavour, giving each sip my full attention.
Milk in tea: yes or no?
Most reasons against taking tea with milk and/or sweetener boil down to custom (which is historically and culturally specific) and flavour (which is an individual experience influenced by culture). There are plenty of traditional examples of tea taken with extras: spiced and milky, buttered and salty, strong and jammy (mmm, jammy) or, more recently, iced and dotted with chewy tapioca balls – and let’s not forget iced tea cocktails for partying and chamomile with milk and honey to get to sleep afterwards!
These extras do make it harder to discern the subtleties of a tea or tea blend, so I’d recommend trying your brew unadorned at least once, but unless you’re a pro tea taster and/or buying super swanky tea, it’s not an issue. I take soy milk in most medium-strong black teas (including Assam, Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong – my standards) and many flavoured rooibos/black teas, but not in oolong, green, white or herbal teas. I don’t often use sweeteners, but I love my Rooibos Chai with soy milk and golden syrup!
Milk-then-tea or tea-then-milk?
- You have more control over the tea:milk ratio and are better able to regulate the tea colour. People can be very particular about this, as you will know if you've ever tried to make tea for an office full of tea-drinking colleagues.
- I don’t drink my tea from soft-paste porcelain on loan from the V&A (I wish!). Milk-first is allegedly a hangover from a time when teacups were so delicate they might crack if very hot liquid was poured into them directly.
- When using a teabag, the tea won't steep properly if the milk is already in the cup.
- The milk makes pretty swirly patterns. I like to drink art.
If you're interested in reading further and potentially discovering that my tea-then-milk answer might in fact be subjective opinion, heavily influenced by cultural customs and personal preference, the Guardian has more debate and anecdata.
What tea did people like to buy at the tea shop?
The top sellers were French Earl Grey (a black tea with bergamot, fruit flavours and rose petals) and Eastern Sunrise (a sencha flavoured with passionfruit, rose petals and marigold). Non-flavoured teas, such as Scottish Breakfast (a blend of African teas, if my memory serves me correctly) were also popular, but people often wanted to try new things or buy gifts, so they tended to go for flavoured teas. One of the silliest things I heard from a customer was that they would not buy French Earl Grey as a birthday present “for a man” because it had pink flower petals in it. I am not sure what effect they thought this would have on the recipient - maybe they thought he would lose Man Points™?