When making a cup of tea, should you put the milk in first, or the tea?
Mrs PH, Medowie
Dear Mrs PH,
It’s worth it for your business.
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I’m not sure who you are, but I think I love you. Here I was thinking the new world order was somewhere between Lord of the Flies and Contagion and yet amongst us are people like you, Mrs PH – in downtown Medowie of all places – making civilised decisions about cups of tea. I can see you there with your fine bone China tea set (cup and saucer, milk jug and sugar bowl) a little tasting plate of Scotch Finger and Monte Carlo biscuits, a polished silver teaspoon, and your Miranda Kerr Friendship teapot adorned with pretty pink peonies. Outside your window are people walloping each other over the head with hand sanitiser and a gentleman using your sprinkler as a bidet and yet there you are, an oasis of calm, your 12-blend Twinings Tea Chest taking pride of place on the kitchen bench and the teddy bear you’ve knitted entirely from reused teabag strings perched next to you. There’s something very reassuring about that image in these uncertain times.
Now, back to the question. Let’s turn to science. Dr Stapley (of Loughborough University, no less, and inspired by George Orwell which seems appropriate in our current times) determined that putting the milk in last caused uneven heating leading to the proteins denaturing. I have no idea what this means, but it doesn’t sound good. On the other hand, if you use teabags, putting the milk in first will result in a soggy teabag and lessen its efficacy when boiling water is added. In this instance, the milk will need to go in last after the obligatory bag jiggling phase. For purists (and to reduce single-use plastic that is found in many teabags) I would recommend the following:
Boil the kettle (preferably one of those stovetop ones that whistle when ready) and fill your Miranda Kerr teapot with hot water to warm it. Arrange your tea set and biscuits. Empty the pot and add one scoop of tea for each cup and one for the pot (why? I’ve no idea, but it sounds authentic). Add the hot water and allow it to steep. Now pour the tea into your delicate teacup and add milk and sugar to taste (this will allow you to regulate the colour and strength). Finally, sip quietly, don’t be tempted to dunk your Scotch Finger, and chant a little ‘oasis of calm’ affirmation to block out the loonies beyond your rose garden (and also the ones inside now that you are home schooling during a pandemic).
Carpe diem, Jasminda.