Though I am a purist when it comes to my tea, there are times when the thought of adding milk to my cup has occurred to me. It has been posited that doing so may reduce the antioxidant effect of drinking tea, but that is not really a concern for me. For me, in fact, the health benefits of drinking tea come from taking five minutes out of a busy day and focusing on measuring out the leaves accurately, getting the water temperature where it should be, and being sure that the steeping time is abided. Beyond that, the other pleasure to be derived from drinking the perfectly brewed cup is the enjoyment of a tea’s distinctive flavor. Therefore, adding anything that gets in the way of that enjoyment seems almost heretical.
However, with the goal of stretching my imbibing horizons, I thought I would run a bit of a taste test by brewing a few of India’s best single-estate Assams and tasting each of the teas with and without milk side by side. Note that I dosed the teas identically (2.5 grams per 6 ounces of water), brewing each for exactly 5 minutes and using water at just the boiling point. I used Straus Dairy’s whole milk, with its rich creamy thickness on the tongue, measuring out 1 ounce for each 6-ounce cup of tea. Here are my subjective results:
Name of single estate tea: Banaspaty FTGFOP1
Description when black: Invigorating, brisk, a hint of spicy sweetness, and a delicate lemony undertone
Description when white: The dairy totally obliterates the delicacy of this tea. Back to black
Name of single estate tea: Jaipur SFTGFOF
Description when black: Complex, well balanced, tippy, and medium bodied with a subtle cocoa and malty presence
Description when white: Sweet dairy notes of the milk were balanced by the tea’s brisk profile
Name of single estate tea: Halmari GTGFBOP clonal
Description when black: Good colored liquor, but the tea had a slightly iodine-y personality that was unpleasant
Description when white: The surprise winner of the trio; milk mellowed the almost mineral notes of the tea, inviting the drinker to take that next sip, and then the one after until the cup is drained
I would love your input and experiences with and without.