Milk in Tea: Herbal vs. Black Tea Milk Combos

Does milk and tea go together, or does it spoil the perfect cup? There’s a huge tea debate on this issue, trust me! As someone who’s tried them all – from black breakfast blends to minty chamomile – I’ve observed firsthand how milk either complements or completely clashes with certain teas.

In this post I’ll share the clear divide I found through my milk and tea experiments. The results come down to some interesting science between tea types and milk. No need for endless trial and error on your tastebuds! I’ll break this down into enjoyable, bite-sized tidbits without the complex technical terms.

Whether you’re a casual sipper or self-proclaimed connoisseur, read on for the definitive deciding factors on beloved milk and tea duos versus distasteful disasters. Let’s tackle this age-old steeping controversy together!

Pouring milk from a mini pitcher into a cup of tea.

Milk In Tea: Fast Facts

  • Milk balances bitterness and softens astringency from tannins in robust black teas. It inhibits the drying sensation for a smoother mouthfeel.
  • Adding milk first cools the cup so quality fine china doesn’t crack from hot tea. But pouring tea first helps regulate exact milk ratios.
  • Just a splash of milk is needed – about 1⁄5 tsp per cup. Too much milk overpowers tea flavor. Sweeteners further reduce astringency.
  • The chemistry between milk and tea changes antioxidant levels and benefits. But findings are still mixed on the exact impact.
  • Soy milk curdles from tea acids and heat. Condensed milk makes Thai tea. Almond milk works with most black teas. Avoid coconut milk with lighter teas.
  • Subtle herbal teas and green teas are best enjoyed straight, without milk interference. The nuanced notes get drowned out by milk.
  • Ultimately, milk tea comes down to personal preference. But understanding tea types and the science guides you to make informed choices for maximum enjoyment!
Pouring milk into a cup of hot tea.

The Rold of Milk in Herbal Tea

Herbal teas (also called tisanes) are made by steeping herbs, spices, flowers or other botanicals in hot water – not tea leaves. This makes them naturally caffeine-free with a wide range of flavors.

When it comes to adding milk, herbal tea drinkers fall into two camps. Some enjoy the sweetened creaminess milk provides, which can mellow bitterness from certain herbs. However, others find milk masks the delicate herbal flavors and antioxidant compounds they wish to savor straight.

It’s important to note floral or delicately flavored herbal blends likely don’t pair well with milk, as it can overwhelm subtle notes. Meanwhile, bolder spiced tisanes have flavors that can stand up to milk better.

Ultimately, adding milk to herbal brews comes down to personal preference. If seeking to highlight pure herbal essence, it’s often best without. But if desiring a smoothed out, creamy texture, then milk addition blends nicely for some. Experiment to see which camp your tastes place you in!

Me holding a cup of tea with milk in it.

Benefits of Adding Milk to Herbal Tea

Herbal tea is known for its various health benefits and unique flavors. Adding milk to herbal tea can enhance its flavor, provide a nutritional boost, and create a smoother texture and consistency. Here are some benefits of adding milk to herbal tea:

Enhanced Flavor

Herbal teas like Echinacea tea can have a strong and sometimes bitter taste. Adding milk to herbal tea can help balance out the flavors and create a smoother taste. Milk can also add a creamy and rich flavor to the tea, making it more enjoyable to drink.

Nutritional Boost

Milk is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients. Adding milk to herbal tea can provide a nutritional boost and make it a healthier beverage option. However, it is important to note that adding too much milk can also add extra calories and fat to the tea.

Texture and Consistency

Some herbal teas can have a thin and watery consistency. Adding milk to herbal tea can create a thicker and creamier texture, making it more satisfying to drink. Milk can also help balance out the temperature of the tea, making it more enjoyable to consume.

In conclusion, adding milk to herbal tea can enhance its flavor, provide a nutritional boost, and create a smoother texture and consistency. However, it is important to use milk in moderation to avoid adding extra calories and fat to the tea.

A cup of tea with milk in it.

Potential Drawbacks of Adding Milk

When it comes to adding milk to herbal tea, there are some potential drawbacks to consider. While some people enjoy the creaminess that milk adds to their tea, others find that it interferes with the taste or reduces the health benefits of the herbal infusion. Here are a few potential drawbacks to keep in mind:

Possible Change in Taste

One of the main reasons people choose to drink herbal tea is for its unique taste and aroma. However, adding milk to herbal tea can change the flavor profile and alter the taste of the tea. Some people find that the milk overpowers the delicate flavors of the herbs, while others enjoy the creamy, rich taste that milk adds to the infusion.

Nutrient Interference

Another potential drawback of adding milk to herbal tea is that it may interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients. Some studies suggest that the proteins in milk can bind with the flavonoids in tea, making it more difficult for the body to absorb these beneficial compounds. While this may not be a concern for everyone, it’s something to keep in mind if you’re drinking herbal tea for its health benefits.

In conclusion, while adding milk to herbal tea can provide a creamy, rich taste, it may also alter the flavor profile and interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients. Ultimately, whether or not you choose to add milk to your herbal tea is a matter of personal preference and depends on your individual taste and health goals.

Tea with tea bag in it.

The Role of Milk in Black Tea

Unlike delicate herbal teas, robust black teas are very well suited for the addition of milk. The bold, complex flavor profile of black tea stands up incredibly well to milk without either overpowering the other.

In fact, adding a splash of milk to black tea is a beloved practice in many tea cultures. The dairy balances and softens the natural astringency from the tea’s tannins. This mellows out the potential bitter “bite” of unadulterated black tea for a smoother sip.

The milk also rounds out the rich, malty qualities already present in most black tea blends. This makes for a beautifully full-bodied, almost sweet cup. Additionally, the tea preserves the inherent aromatic qualities from proper steeping despite the dairy addition.

So for black tea drinkers who enjoy a strong morning brew but dislike acidic puckering, milk helps temper that experience. The heightened flavors and canvas-like body of black tea provide the perfect vessel for creamy milk interplay. This makes them an iconic pairing seen across breakfast tables and tea houses globally.

a glass bottle of almond milk.

How to Properly Add Milk to Herbal and Black Tea

Herbal tea is enjoyed for its taste/health benefits. Adding milk comes down to preference, but follow guidelines to not ruin the brew. Black tea, however, is well suited for incorporating dairy.

Choosing the Right Milk

Opt for light, non-dairy milks with delicate herbal flavors. Full dairy complements bold black tea notes.

Timing and Temperature

Heat milk beforehand to limit cooling infusion, but avoid scalding. Add heated milk slowly while stirring, after herbs have fully steeped. Adding milk before steeping dilutes flavors.

Amounts and Temps Vary By Tea

Black tea takes more milk and hotter milk since it steeps at a boil. Only add a splash of cooler milk to herbals so as not to overwhelm flavors or cool the delicate brew too drastically.

Proper technique preserves delicious floral, fruity, spiced or malty notes with just the desired kiss of creaminess.

Adding a small amount of milk into tea.

The Perfect Cup Of Homemade Milk Herbal Tea


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 herbal tea bags (chamomile, rooibos, cinnamon apple)
  • 1-2 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp cold milk (almond, oat or soy)
  • Cinnamon stick (optional)


  1. Boil water and remove from heat. Add herbal tea bags and let steep 5-7 minutes.
  2. Remove tea bags and stir in sweetener if using until blended. Taste test tea.
  3. Heat milk separately until hot but not boiling. Frothing is optional.
  4. Add 1 tbsp heated milk to the herbal infusion. Stir gently.
  5. Taste and add more milk (up to 2 tbsp total) if desired, but an overly milky cup will overwhelm an herbal tea’s delicate flavors.
  6. Pour into your favorite mug and top with a cinnamon stick if desired.

The key for herbal milk tea is to add just enough milk to lend a hint of creaminess without masking the subtle floral, fruity, or spicy notes of the herbs. A delicate splash of nutty almond or oat milk brings out an herbal tea’s best qualities for this perfect cup of tea.

What is Milk Tea Exactly?

At its core, milk tea simply refers to tea with added dairy/milk. Varied types of tea like hearty British breakfast blends, fragrant white teas, Chinese Pu-erh, and even herbal infusions can all become “milk teas”. This British introduction of adding a splash of milk to modulate tea’s intensity and smooth out flavors is now applied globally across different kinds of milk tea recipes. While George Orwell had controversial viewpoints on the correct steeping order, scientific research by institutions like the Royal Society of Chemistry suggests previous studies had conflicting findings on milk tea properties. One small study identified possible effects on antioxidants, but further inquiry is still unfolding. Proper amounts and brewing methods lead to a balanced cup where milk enhances rather than obscures the flavor of quality loose leaf teas.

Top view of tea in a floral tea cup with milk in it.


What are some iconic global examples of milk tea?

From Britain’s creamy Earl Grey to Hong Kong Milk Tea with its signature silkiness, many cultures have put their unique stamp on perfect cups of milk tea. Masala chai and bubble tea with tapioca pearls also have dedicated fans. Even the United States has embraced coffeehouse tea lattes.

How can milk tea benefit your health?

The verdict is still out when it comes to health pros and cons. Smaller studies like one by Britain’s Dr. Stapley of Loughborough University suggest milk may counter tea’s antioxidant activity. However other researchers contend it only lowers polyphenols marginally. Moderate intake optimizes robust black tea benefits.

What impacts milk ratios in tea?

The amount of milk that creates a balanced flavor depends on the heartiness of the tea. Delicate white and green teas take just a dash – too much overpowers. Heftier breakfast blends suit more milk. Assam and other large leaf Indian teas support even ratios for perfect creaminess. Ultimately finding your own perfect milk tea recipe comes down to personal taste.

What are the best methods for making a perfect cup of homemade milk oolong tea?

Oolong tea is an incredibly popular Chinese tea known for its smooth, fragrant character. As a partially oxidized tea, oolong suits a splash of dairy better than highly oxidized black teas or minimally oxidized green teas. The best homemade method starts with heating water to a rolling boil then lowering to 180°F before steeping high quality loose leaf oolong for 2-3 minutes. After letting the leaves unfurl, add a light dash of hot milk and stir gently. Though unconventional, daring tea connoisseurs suggest even warming the milk complements oolong’s toastier notes beautifully. Experiment with amounts to formulate your own perfect oolong procedure. The pairing may surprise you as much as it has delighted devoted boba bubble tea fans!

What type of tea is best for chai tea lattes?

Chai tea lattes use bold, aromatic spiced black tea concentrates paired with steamed milk and sugar. Indian style masala chai concentrates incorporate teas like Assam and Ceylon which brew well with dairy. The strong tannins and full body of these black tea varieties hold up beautifully to spice infusions and creamy milk for a perfectly balanced cup of milk tea. Typical chai spices like cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and black pepper intermingle more harmoniously when the tea underneath provides sufficient structure. So stick to hearty black tea bags or loose leaf blends when making your own cup of milk tea chai latte at home. The result will be a smoothly spiced, sweet, and creamy tea experience.

Stirring milk in tea that is in a tea cup.

Whether or not to add milk to herbal tea or black tea comes down to personal preference. Many enjoy the creaminess milk lends herbal brews, while others prefer to savor delicate herbal flavors straight.

It’s important to note certain floral or subtly flavored herbal teas likely don’t pair well with milk, as it can overwhelm notes or cause strange aftertastes. However, bolder spiced herbal blends may suit a splash of dairy nicely.

When it comes to robust black teas, milk is a beloved addition across cultures to balance bitterness and create a smooth, rounded cup. But ultimately, the choice depends on your tastes.

Feel free to experiment with different types of tea and forms of milk until you find your favorite combinations. There are no strict rules, just ideal guidelines for maximum enjoyment. Both herbal teas and black teas have their place either enjoyed plain or with a splash of milk added.

Thank you for visiting this, Milk in Tea: Herbal vs. Black Tea Milk Combos blog post. I hope I helped to demystify the ideal methodologies, scientific properties, and personal preferences behind adding milk to various tea types. Now that proper techniques are clear for achieving tea and milk harmony or savoring delicate herbal flavors solo, may your next morning tea achieve the perfect balance of creaminess and steeped bliss.

My signature. A drawing of me sitting with a cup of coffee and a rosemary topiary next to me.

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