• Question: Is the flavour of tea altered depending on what you add first : the milk or the tea-bag? =)

    Asked by hazel to Meeks, Pete, Stephen, Steve, Tom on 15 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Steve Roser

      Steve Roser answered on 15 Jun 2010:

      Well I reckon you’ve half answered your question. If you go for tea bags rather than leaves then the flavour is not the most important thing so I think it won’t matter!!! But……if you add milk while the tea bag is still in there, it slows down the diffusion process getting teh flavour out of the bag becuase milk proteins coat the small holes in the bag. My way is to make the tea with a tea bag and hot water, take the bag out and THEN add milk

    • Photo: Stephen Curry

      Stephen Curry answered on 15 Jun 2010:

      My wife is the tea connoisseur in our family and she would respond with an emphatic yes! We always add the milk first in our family.

      I think there are good reasons for this. If you pour hot tea into milk, at the beginning of the mixing there is only a little tea in the milk and the milk warms up *relatively* slowly.

      But if you pour milk into a mug of hot tea, the milk is heated up more rapidly and I think this causes some of the proteins in milk to ‘denature’. This means that the proteins molecules unravel – they lose their normal structure – and this affects the flavour.

      The flavour is changed because flavour arises from the interaction between the molecules in a drink (including proteins) and molecules known as taste receptors on your tongue. The strength of the interaction is affected by the shape of the molecules.

      Time for a coffee break I think…

      Ooops – missed the second part. But I refuse to answer since you never, never, never, never, never make tea by adding a tea-bag to a cup. It has to be made in a pot! 😉

    • Photo: Tom Hartley

      Tom Hartley answered on 15 Jun 2010:

      I think it is. If you put the milk in first the temperature of the brewing tea is lower, which results in weaker tea. It’s only a guess, but I think some of the flavourful compounds only come out when you using boiling water. In my opinion tea tastes better with the milk put in after. Of course the correct way to find out the answer would be to run an experiment. I would suggest the following: brew 80 cups of tea, 40 with the milk added first, 40 with the milk added second. The amount of water and milk used should be the same for all cups of tea. The tea should be allowed to cool to the same temperature. Arrange the teacups in identical cups with labels on them – the labels will have secret codes on which tell you which is a milk-first cup, they should be arranged in pairs 20 milk first-milk first, 20 bag-first, bag first, 20 milk first – bag first and 20 bag-first milk-first. Then we get 80 members of the public and assign them randomly to a pair of teacups. They have to tell us whether they taste different, and if so which is best. We expect to find more different judgements in the pairings where the tea was made differently. If we get the same number (within a margin of error) in all four conditions then we would have to conclude that the order of milk and teabag makes no difference.

    • Photo: Marieke Navin

      Marieke Navin answered on 15 Jun 2010:

      I’ll test this next time a make a brew…