Best Types of Milk for Tea Guide

Mar 10, 2021
Can’t imagine drinking your favorite black tea without milk? What if you want to avoid regular milk, but crave a cup of hot creamy latte? Learn what are the best milk alternatives to add to your cup of tea.

Why do we add milk to tea?

In Asia tea is usually served without milk. The tradition of adding milk to tea started a few centuries ago in the United Kingdom. Tea drinking habits differed greatly from those in the far east Asia, and tea leaves were different too. However, tea leaves were not the reason. Cups were. Tea in China and Japan is served from small cups specially made for different types of tea. But in Europe, tea was served from porcelain cups that were so delicate they would easily crack in contact with hot tea. Back then, although green tea already found its way to Europe, black tea was the dominant type, and always made with boiling water. Another reason could be that back then, people were not used to enjoy delicate flavor nuances of teas, brewed them differently than they were prepared in the east, and drank different teas that would usually need a bit of sugar or milk to enhance the flavor. Today, the tradition of adding milk and sugar to tea is still very strong among tea lovers. But one thing has changed – the type of milk. There are so many types of milk available that you can experiment with new type every week. Many of them are suitable for vegan and vegetarian tea drinkers.

What is the best cow’s milk for tea?

The best type of milk for most teas is still the regular cow’s milk. Many tea recipes call for a full fat milk. Full fat milk is a must for making a traditional Indian chai. But there are other dairy alternatives to cow s milk such as goat’s milk, buffalo’s milk or yak’s milk. For example, a traditional Tibetan tea is made with butter made from yak’s milk. The percentage of natural fat in milk is very important if you are making special types of milk tea. Skimmed milk has the lowest percentage of fat, which makes it very watery. Depending on the brand, it can be anywhere from 0,1% to 0,9%. Fat contents of semi-skimmed milk will usually be less than 3%, mostly between 1-2%, and the percentage of fat in full fat milk will be above 3%. Other popular dairy alternatives to regular milk are evaporated milk, sweet condensed milk, or half and half. For making a cup of Teh Tarik, using skimmed milk will never give the same cup as using condensed milk. In fact, skimmed milk may not be the best option for any type of tea, because it’s too watery and mostly flavorless.

Recommended alternative milks for any tea

If you want to avoid regular cow’s or other dairy milk, there are many amazing alternatives available on the market. They are usually made from nuts, seeds, legumes or wheat, and have a texture more or less similar to regular milk. If your reason for avoiding milk is lactose intolerance, you can find lactose free milk too. But if you are a vegan, dairy is simply not an option. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a cup of proper tea with milk. Keep in mind though, some non-dairy milks may curdle when you add them to hot tea. To avoid this problem, wait a few minutes for tea to cool down, or add milk first. There are a few dozen types of non-dairy milk alternatives on the market, such as nut milk or legume milk. Non-dairy milk is usually made by soaking nuts or legumes in water. Their consistency and flavor will depend on many factors. Some non-dairy milk alternatives are:

1. Soy milk

Soy milk is the most popular non-dairy alternative that’s widely available and even easy to make at home. This milk will be good with almost any type of tea. It usually has a good consistency and texture, and it’s one of the best replacements for regular milk. However, it will have a distinct flavor from regular cow’s milk, so try it first.

2. Oat milk

Another very popular alternative is oats milk. With neutral flavor and good texture, this milk is an excellent choice for making tea lattes.

3. Coconut milk

There are different types of coconut milk. One is the coconut milk in cans, which is a very thick and creamy product used for cooking, while the other is regular coconut milk for drinking that serves as a substitute for cow’s milk. You can use both for making tea, but coconut milk for drinking will have a more watery texture and a lighter flavor.

4. Almond milk

Almond milk is another popular alternative, but with a slightly thinner texture than oats milk. It’s neutral enough to go well with many teas.

5. Hazelnut milk

Hazelnut milk is one of the most delicious plant-based milks. However, it might have a very strong hazelnut flavor. Use it for pure black teas, rather than flavored ones.

6. Cashew milk

Cashew milk may be one of the best dairy substitutes. It’s the creamiest of all dairy free milks and has the most neutral flavor. It’s more expensive than many other types, though.

7. Rice milks

Rice milk is one of the most watery non-dairy milk types. It Is usually very low in calories, and has a neutral, slightly sweet flavor. Brown rice milk is available too.

8. Pea milk

Pea milk is one of the newer vegan milk alternatives. It's often used as an alternative to non-vegan protein powders, and it doesn’t surprise that it may be used for making a great non-dairy milk too. It’s made from yellow peas, has a creamy texture and a quite neutral flavor.

9. Hemp milk

Hemp milk became popular in the last couple of decades. It’s nut-free and made from hemp seeds. It may be very creamy, depending on the brand.

Best nondairy milk

The best non-dairy milk for adding to your tea is cashew milk, oat milk and lately, pea milk. They will have the best texture and the most neutral flavor. Keep in mind though, not all milks were made equal. Some will be creamier, the others may be more watery. Most of them are available pure unsweetened, sweetened or flavored. Sweeter types are likely to have more flavor and thicker consistency.

Best plant-based nut-free milk

If you need a pure plant-based nut-free milk, then hemp milk may be the best one to choose. Choose those with a thicker texture. If you want to be sure you are getting the best texture for your milky drinks, try making it at home.

Best vegan milk

All non-dairy plant based milks are suitable for vegans, unless they contain hidden ingredients or have been made in factories that process eggs or dairy products too. If you are unsure, always check the label. However, it’s very unlikely that your non dairy milk will be vegan unfriendly.

Regular vs non dairy milk

Both dairy and nondairy milk may be high in calories, high in protein and high in sugar and fat, and may or may not provide additional health benefits. However, regular milk rarely has added sugars, while dairy free milk may often contain sugar to make the flavor more appealing. Always read the label and opt for sugar free or light milk if you want to keep your calorie and sugar intake low. Next, cow’s milk is likely to have more protein than regular plant milk. On the other hand, non dairy milk may have less fat. Which one is the best will ultimately depend on the brand and your preferences.  
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Every person is different and may react to different herbs and teas differently. Never use teas or herbs to treat serious medical conditions on your own. Always seek professional medical advice before choosing home remedies.

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