The unexpected reason why the tea with milk is popular

[2013.09.26] Posted By

Milk Tea

Majority of customers who visit my shop usually drink their tea without the addition of milk and sugar. However, there are quite a number of people who love to drink tea with milk. The tea book often explains that the milk proteins conjugate with the tea tannins and therefore the taste of black tea becomes mellower and less astringent. Others explain that the water in certain places like England is very hard, and therefore, the tea tastes not as good as in straight tea. The concept of adding milk was developed to enjoy a nice cup of tea. Even so, I have totally different point of view for the reason of adding milk into tea.

The calcium in milk produces a tea with stronger body

Tea plucked in early spring has very less dryness or astringency; even if you drink it straight, the tea is of very smooth texture and it gives no disturbance in our mouth. Still many people enjoy drinking spring-plucked tea with milk even after brewing with soft water. The reason why people are comfortable drinking tea with milk has something to do with the calcium content in milk. The calcium has a distinctive function of enhancing the body of tea while at the same time increasing the intensity of its flavor. In Japan, and in Malaysia where my shop is located, generally the water lacks body yet it gives a reasonably strong aftertaste. Thus, when milk is added, the body will be improved and resulting in a tea with a richer taste. This is why people who drink milk tea would spontaneously appreciate it. The flavor becomes obviously stronger if you add milk in a low-end black tea. For your information, the body I was mentioning here does not refer to the thick texture of a tea; but its width, boldness and thickness or richness of the flavor and taste in a tea. With the right practice, you will be able to easily detect the intensity of body with just your nose.


The similarity between milk tea and Hirezake

Do you know a fish called “Fugu”? Fugu is called as Puffer fish in English. This fish is poisonous; yet it is highly appreciated by Japanese and it is one of the most exclusive cuisines in Japan.

In Japan, we have a very strange culture on how we eat Fugu. The sun-dried fin of the Fugu will be baked with strong fire, and then it is served in a glass of Sake (Japanese rice wine). This is called Hirezake. It is said that the Fugu’s fin is able to transform the ordinary Sake into a great quality Sake. It used to be a common practice where people could enjoy a nicer taste of sake despite if lower-end sake was served. Please refer to the following quote from the Wikipedia.

Hirezake – The fins of the fish are dried completely, baked, and served in hot sake, a dish called Hire-zake.

I did try Hirezake, and it really increased the body of the sake. The sake became very rich in taste and it gave a more rounded feeling in my mouth. Hence, I also tried the same attempt using tea. If we put any fish fin into a cup of tea, it will also increase the body and its distinction is very noticeable. The body was improved thanks to the calcium from the fish fin. Therefore, a tea with milk has a lot in common with Hirezake or many other cuisines around the world; especially the soup simmered with fish bone, chicken stock or pork bones. For instance, the Ramen in Japan has great body in their soup thanks to the chicken or pork bones that were cooked together for its soup.

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