The Correct and Only Way To Pour and Drink Tea

This introduction is a repeat of something I wrote a couple of days ago:

I must admit I am on a bit of a roll with the challenge a fellow blogger and I have set ourselves; we came across a list of seventy-three different sorts of blog which could be written. Just like in the playground when we were young, I have to say ‘he started it!!’; my friend took up the challenge to write a blog for each of these suggestions… and after a little thought I took up his implicitly flung down writing gauntlet.

I started at the top and have written three –

  1. Tutorials and How-to Guides – A How-To Guide – How to edit what you have written
  2. Latest Industry News – Writing as an industrial process… maybe… maybe not!
  3. Current Events – Snow Leopards and the Severn Bridge

So now I am looking at number four

4. Controversial Subjects

I wrote about the extremely controversial subject of cream teas… once you have cut your scone, should jam or cream go on next? Naturally I supported the correct way, the Cornish way, jam on first then a mountain of delicious clotted cream.

I have already done this challenge, but I cannot resist having another go at it, with maybe an even more controversial subject – which has a far wider relevance. I’m talking about TIF versus MIF… I’m talking about pouring and drinking tea; so do you support TIF – Tea In First, or MIF – Milk In First?

The Correct and Only Way To Pour and Drink Tea

To drink traditional English tea the correct way is to pour the delicious, hot, aromatic tea into your cup or mug (I’m not a snob about porcelain cups, china cups, mugs etc – I think this is allowable personal preference) – the correct way is to pour tea in first and then add as much milk as suits your taste. I am not going to here discuss the actual making of tea, or the type of tea used, that is again personal preference, family tradition, habit and custom.

From a practical point of view this is the only way; before you pour your tea how do you know how strong it is – unless you precisely measure the tea in the pot (I’m not even going to mention tea bags) and the amount of water, and have a stop-watch out for the ‘standing’ time, you cannot possibly know how strong each cup is. Once it is poured, then you can add the appropriate amount of milk. If you are foolish enough to do it the wrong way round, you may be able to add more milk, but you cannot take out the extra milk you have accidentally added by pouring it in first.

Maybe we should consider the history of tea drinking; apparently, in the past, cups were so badly made and of such poor quality material, that pouring boiling tea straight into the cup would crack it – therefore by pouring milk in first it would dissipate the heat of the tea. Better quality cups allowed the tea to be poured in first without mishap, and so it became considered genteel to do so as only the gentry could afford such cups…. except there is a different argument, that fine china cracks with the hot tea, so the upper classes who could afford said fine china would put milk in first – thus milk in first became the ‘correct’ thing to do… I am inclined to think the cracking cups is an ancient urban myth which is trotted out by either side of this controversial issue.

There are scientific arguments on both side about the effect of milk on the taste of tea, and the difference between adding it first (which has some effect on the fat in the milk, making the drink taste creamier – not to everyone’s taste, and is this true of semi-skimmed and skimmed milk? Pasteurised, homogenised, sterilised milk?) and adding it after wards – in this it really is personal preference, whether you like creamy tea or tea.

The debate has raged for decades – Wikipedia notes:

in his 1946 essay “A Nice Cup of Tea”, author George Orwell wrote, “tea is one of the mainstays of civilisation in this country and causes violent disputes over how it should be  made”. Whether to put tea in the cup first and add the milk after, or the other way around, has split public opinion, with Orwell stating, “indeed, in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject”

To conclude, I return to my opening comments, that the amount of milk can only be judged by adding it after the tea has been poured not before. So TIF every time!

Here is a link to my other controversial post, the correct way to eat a cream tea, jam first or cream first:

…and my books:



      1. himalayanbuddhistart

        I find that adding the milk after the tea makes a cloudy mess that requires stirring and that with practice you can pour the exact amount of milk needed, but from what you wrote I made and drank at least 20,000 cups of tea ‘the incorrect way’ while living in England!!! (But everyone else around me did the same…). The only thing I was severely reprimanded for on various occasions was dunking my biscuits into my tea, ‘not ladylike’ it seems… Knowing your creativity, you might write a post about things being or not being ladylike!!! Etiquette is very much part of the British culture and an interesting sociological topic. Anyway, thanks again for all those entertaining things you write in such a delightful manner.


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