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Milk, lemon, honey and sugar in tea

So in this weeks tea academy installment we're going to look at why we add milk, lemon, honey and sugar to tea. Let's kick things off with milk...

The reasons that Britons began to add milk to tea are for the most part speculative. They weren’t the first tea drinkers to add milk and it's thought that the British simply followed the methods of other countries and it became the fashion. In Hong Kong they make a tea now known as ‘Hong Kong style milk tea’ which is half milk and half water - so like a tea latte? 

It is often debated whether to add the milk before or after the water. In his 1946 essay ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’, author George Orwell wrote, "tea is one of the mainstays of civilisation in this country and causes violent disputes over how it should be made". This debate has been going on since at least the mid-20th century. Studies has shown that if the milk reaches a level of temperature in a certain time then this will change the taste of the tea. But generally we believe that if the milk is added after when the tea has brewed properly then the tea taste is not effected. There is actually no right answer either way, it’s simply a matter of personal preference. 

So the question is; is tea better with or without milk? If you ask a specialised tea connoisseur then the answer will probably be without. However, beyond that level of snobbery, there are plenty of teas that are enjoyable with a splash of milk and in general, bold, astringent black teas work best with milk.

Green tea is one of the world's most widely consumed beverages and is a delicious source of antioxidants. Drinking green tea with lemon extends the health benefits even further. According to researchers at Purdue University Citrus juice brings out green tea's antioxidants, making them more available for your body to absorb. Catechins, which prefer the acid environment of the stomach, become degraded in the more alkaline conditions of the small and large intestine where nutrient absorption takes place. Lemon juice can increase the amount of catechins your body extracts from green tea by up to six times. While compounds in tea can inhibit iron absorption from foods in your diet, drinking your green tea with lemon reduces that effect. Earl Grey is another tea which is commonly served with a slice of lemon which helps to enhance its floral notes.

When it comes to sugar and honey it is mostly down to personal taste. Some teas can taste bitter so adding sugar or honey helps to sweeten to taste. Adding honey to tea also has a variety of health benefits you would have never have thought of. Honey is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and provides magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, copper and zinc as well as vitamins A, B-complex and C. So having a sweet tooth isn't always a bad thing.

However you take your tea, it doesn't matter as long as you enjoy it. 

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