What is Cream Down?
Cream down (milk down, or tea cream, in some literatures) is an effect of precipitate formed after tea cools down. It usually occurs in black tea or highly oxidized oolong tea. Some assert it is a sign of superior quality. However, other sources discuss how to eliminate cream down effect in iced tea – or beverage tea (which is usually cheap and low-quality by nature) – since consumers prefer crystal clear tea.

These controversial findings make me doubt if cream down effect is an appropriate indicator of tea quality.

What follows is little experiment I did to test if cream down effect occurs in cheap (low quality) tea:

A Set: Brew a cheap black tea using normal methodology: (5 grams tea/150ml boiling water for 3 minutes), and put into a refrigerator to cool down to 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).

B Set: Brew the same cheap black tea by alternative method, increasing both the quantity of tea and the steep time. (10 gram tea/ 150ml boiling water for 5 minutes), and put into a refrigerator to cool down to 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).Cream Down

The result?  B set has significant cream down effect while A set has little.
It is obvious cream down effect does not happen only in high quality tea.
You can generate the same result with low quality tea as long as the concentration of tea is high enough.

After discussion with some friends and searching literature online, this is what I learned from reading the literature on PubMed:  A higher tea concentration leads to earlier onset of creaming and larger particle. Theaflavin, caffeine and calcium are major factors of forming tea cream. Tea creaming may be reduced by increasing the solubility of the polyphenols or by removing calcium.

Between the experiment, discussion and research, I have come to the conclusion that
since tea cream is formed by the correlation of three factors: Theaflavin, caffeine and calcium, one could get sufficient tea cream by increasing the theaflavin and caffeine in the tea or by adding calcium to the water.

Maybe I should rephrase the question:
Does higher theaflavin, caffeine, and calcium make a better tea? And if so, how does it enhance our tasting experience in terms of aroma, flavor and balance of tea, etcetera?

What do you think?

Image courtesy of the contributor.