Posts Tagged 'orwell'

To Put the Milk in First, or To Put the Milk in Second? That is the Question

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In 1946, George Orwell published the essay “A Nice Cup of Tea” in the Evening Standard. It turns out the author of Animal Farm and 1984 had some pretty clear ideas on precisely how to prepare a good cup of black tea.

Included in his list of eleven rules are a few points that Orwell himself called “acutely controversial.” Among them: tea should be made in small amounts, using a vessel made of china or earthenware, and tea should be left loose in the pot so as not to “imprison” the tea. But one of the most hotly debated of Orwell’s prescriptions is his rule that milk be added to the cup after the tea.

Nearly 60 years after Orwell’s essay, the popular British newspaper The Guardian disputed Orwell’s rule of milk in second. While Orwell makes his recommendation based on the fact that you can regulate the amount of milk better when you add it after the tea is poured, The Guardian looks to science to end the debate, reporting research conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry that indicates milk should be added first. Here’s why, according to the chemists: when you add milk to hot tea, the temperature causes the milk to degrade and this alters its taste. By adding the milk first and the tea second, you reduce your chances of this.

Historically, however, taste wasn’t what was at stake in the milk-in-tea debate. It was the preservation of the teacup! Hot tea sometimes caused lower-quality teacups to crack, and so adding milk to the cup first was a way of cooling the temperature and preventing this. Those who could afford better quality teaware that could withstand hotter temperatures could add the milk second without risk of breaking their cups.

Of course, not everyone adds milk to their black tea, and those who do don’t necessarily use dairy milk. Soy, almond and coconut milk are all delicious non-dairy options that are commonly used in tea.

For those who do like their tea milky, some of our favourite Tealish black teas to take with milk are the decadent, vanilla La Creme, Earl Greypfruit, a twist on the Earl’s favourite bergamot blend and the robust, classic Irish Breakfast.  If you’re looking for a caffeine-free way to replicate the milk-in-tea ritual, try rooibos!  This South African plant is naturally caffeine-free and takes milk well, so when you’re craving a nice cup before bed, reach for the rooibos!  We especially love warm, spicy Banana Bread Rooibos and creamy Tahitian Vanilla Rooibos with milk.

How do you take your tea? Without or without milk? Milk in first, or milk in second? Do you use dairy milk or a non-dairy option?

Whether you agree with Orwell, side with the chemists, or always take your tea straight, there’s one thing we all can agree on – there’s nothing like a nice cup of tea!


Tealish is a modern tea boutique located in downtown Toronto, Canada. This blog is meant to be a peek in to what Tealish is up to as well as a source of information about loose leaf tea and all things tea related. We hope you enjoy these posts and we hope you enjoy our teas – check us out online at

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