Science says the milk should go into your tea first – but we’re not having it

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It’s National Tea Day, and if there’s one thing we pride ourselves on it’s the ability to make a darn good cuppa.

At least, that’s what we thought.

It turns out that there’s a scientifically perfect way to make a cup of tea, and it’s pretty much the opposite from the way most of us have been doing it.

Chemical engineer Dr Andrew Stapley of Loughborough University has uncovered through his research that adding your milk into the mug first is actually beneficial.

how to make tea milk

Pouring milk into your tea first is the way forward… apparently (Credit: Alamy)

Honestly, we’re as shocked as you.

If adding milk into your mug before your teabag didn’t raise an eyebrow, how about this: the expert claims we should be pouring tea on top of the milk. This goes against every fibre of our being!

The scientist explained that if you pour milk onto a boiling hot mug of tea, it’ll end up heating unevenly.

The uneven heating will in turn cause proteins in your milk to ‘denature’ – which means their natural quality is essentially altered – and that’s the reason you often see milky residue at the top of your mug.

how to make tea

The order you add ingredients affects your tea’s taste (Credit: Alamy)

Even more essentially, pouring the milk second also causes it to lose flavour. This is because starting with milk in your mug can actually help to soften hard water, by lowering the mineral content and therefore boosting the taste. 

Don’t hate us, we’re just reporting the science…

Dr Stapley’s full list of tips for the perfect cuppa extend far beyond milk. In fact, he also suggests avoiding hard water altogether and advises the perfect amount of time your drink should brew for.
On top of this, he’s also worked out the optimum temperature that tea should be served at.

There’s a lot more to brewing the perfect tea than you might expect (Credit: Unsplash)

These tips can be found below: 
  1. Use a clean, warm china or earthenware pot
  2. Add one spoonful of tea (or tea bag) per cup
  3. Use freshly drawn water, boiled once only to retain as much oxygen as possible to bind with tea polyphenols
  4. Avoid hard water (calcium ions) to prevent tea “scum”
  5. Best flavour is achieved using a high temperature, but short time infusion
  6. Stir the teapot
  7. Leave to brew for 3 minutes
  8. Add the tea to the milk – rather than the other way around
  9. Add sugar if you like but only use white sugar and not too much
  10. Drink tea at 60-65°C

Despite the fact that science has well and truly contradicted our favoured tea-making method, we can’t say we’ll be changing our habits any time soon.

We don’t know about you, but something about adding the milk into a mug first just feels wrong, and we just can’t shake it.