Do You Take Milk?

Do You Take Milk?
The exquisite English tea set, made by Elkington & Co and Royal Worcester in 1879, has a jug of parcel-gilt silver, a technique that creates a pattern by gilding only part of the silver surface. Photograph courtesy of The Chitra Collection, chitracollection.com.

In February 1680, French aristocrat Marie de Rabutin Chantal, the Marquise de Sévigné, told her daughter in a gossipy letter that Madame de la Sablière set the trend for milk in tea. In a letter discussing the nutritional benefits of milk, she wrote, “Il est vrai que madame de la Sabliére prenait du thé avec son lait; elle me le disait l’autre jour: c’était son goût.…” (“It is true that madame de la Sablière takes tea with her milk; she told me the other day; it is her taste.…” (This is slightly different in meaning from the more commonly quoted translation, which says that the grand lady took milk with her tea.)