By the beginning of the 19th century, adding cold milk or cream to tea was the normal practice, and a milk jug or creamer was a standard part of the tea equipage. In 1807, the poet Robert Southey described an English breakfast table as “a cheerful sight… The tea is made in a vessel of silver, or of fine black porcelain; they do not use boiled milk with it, but cream instead in its fresh state, which renders it a very delightful beverage.” And so, the habit continued into the 20th century, when William Ukers explained British tea habits in All About Tea in 1935: “Milk or cream generally is added to the beverage in the cup. Cold milk is used by most people, but some prefer hot. It is placed in the cup before the tea is poured. In Scotland, where the cream is thin, it is used as a superior alternative to milk. In Western England, cream is not used much in tea as the milk is quite rich.” Today, semi-skimmed is the preferred option for the average British cup of teabag black tea, but as more tea lovers discover the joy of drinking better quality, loose-leaf black, green, white, and oolong teas, milk is no longer regarded as essential to the enjoyment of a cup of really good tea.
Discover more seasonal recipes, table settings, and teatime inspiration by ordering your TeaTime subscription today!