Milk or Lemon?
Adding milk to tea is such a tradition in English tea culture that there is even a debate of which way is correct – adding milk to tea, or the other way around? I’ll leave this deep mythical tea philosophy for you to chat with friends, or to surf for answers before falling asleep at night. This time let’s talk about the health factor of drinking tea with milk.
British nobles were the ones who made drinking tea such a trend in Europe. At that time, tea meant Chinese originated tea. Few centuries ago the tea making skills, even in China, were not as delicate as today. Also the journey of shipping tea from the east to the western countries by sea, the damage caused by rain and sun, temperature changes and high humidity led to some unpleasant tastes in your tea cup. To make it more enjoyable, or to say to make it easier to enjoy, adding sugar and/or milk to smooth the taste gradually became a regularity. This is an often seen assumption today about the origin of the history of adding sugar, milk or even a piece of lemon in tea. Once drinking tea was no longer just a show off game played by the nobles and rich people, but became available and popular across social classes, adding these ingredients formed the tradition of today where British tea culture is spread out to the world.
Many of us might think that tea is healthy for us and milk is also full of nutrition, therefore putting them together must be a health booster. However, I have to tell you the truth here, according to a number of researches, it is actually the opposite. Many European countries have dedicated time into related research about tea and health. And studies have shown that the caseins (milk protein) would dilute the amount of tea catechin. Tea catechin is the main reason why drinking tea is healthy. If adding milk to tea, renders the benefits of tea helping to prevent certain diseases (especially blood and heart related) not effective anymore. How about adding low fat or fat free milk? Unfortunately, the study data also includes research made with low or fat free milk. And the fact is, the lower the fat level in milk, the higher the percentage of milk protein.
A slice of lemon is also a very common addition when having a cup of tea. The fragrance from citrus oil combined with the tea aroma is such a refreshing sensation. Since adding milk is not as healthy as we thought, what about lemon or some other fruit?
Lemon, oranges and other citrus fruits which contain lots of vitamin C are a good companion for tea. Vitamin C helps to settle the catechin and antioxidants in tea making them more stable during the brewing process and easier to be absorbed by human body.
Again, this is not a black and white decision to choose between. Adding ingredients into tea is after all for a better taste. The benefits of tea to health are more a motivation to switch our lifestyles. It encourages us to enjoy tea – a healthier option, instead of consuming fizzy and bubbly drinks with an overdose of sugar and artificial materials in them. As long as you don’t overdo it, adding a bit of sugar or milk to your cup of tea here and there to make it more enjoyable, go for it! To maintain a healthier body not only requires drinking tea, but also healthy living habits which includes exercise and having a good mood.