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Different ways to drink tea

Does anybody have ways to drink tea other than plain? Specifically black tea? I have heard of people putting milk in it and im interested in trying out black tea but the only time I have tried it I had a bad experience. Appreciate the help.

9 Replies
Azzrian said

With many black teas I add sugar in the raw and milk. Don’t be afraid to try different variations. I used to use honey but found I prefer sugar in the raw. Some use a cactus sweetener called agave I think. There are many ways to sweeten. Some even add different coffee creamers in different flavors. Im not sure how though the one time I tried that the creamer sort of had this curdling effect and I dumped it.

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BJC said

First off, let me say that I understand the whole bad experience with black tea. Shortly after moving to Kenya, I had a bad experience that almost made me quit drinking hot tea (specifically black at that time) altogether. I was in language school and part of our daily regiment was “chai” (Swahili for tea). I had just started steeping a bag of Kenyan black when my language teacher started up a conversation. Needless to say, I forgot the bag steeping. When I took a sip after adding a little sugar, it was HARSH. Since “chai” is such an important part of the culture here, especially when hosting guests, I was bothered about the idea of NOT being able to drink it. This started me on my journey into learning about tea. Below are some things I learned that really helped me understand more about tea, and especially black teas.

First off, there is more than one kind of black tea. In fact, there are many! Some examples are:

Chinese black (with its own different varieties)
Assam
Ceylon
Kenyan
and etc…

Secondly, there are different ways the tea leaves are harvested and processed. The Chinese teas are usually hand picked and rolled up, leaving the leaf (or most of it anyway) intact. Here in Kenya, the leaves are hand picked, but then are CTC processed (“Cut, Tear, Crush” I believe) in smaller pieces and bagged. There are other types of processing, but I’ll leave that to a guru.

Therefore, each of these types of black teas have different characteristics that influence how they react to steeping. A CTC processed tea will release the tannins (the cause of bitterness) very quickly, since the volume of leaf exposed to water is greater. A Chinese black, on the other hand, will be slower to release the tannins since it must first unfurl and only the edges of the leaf are releasing the tea flavors.

In addition to the type and processing of the tea, you have the amount of tea steeped, the temperature of the water used for steeping, and the duration of the steeping. All of this affects the resulting brew. Then there are the additives (milk, sugar, agave, honey, etc…).

All that said to say this, how would YOU like to drink YOUR tea? If you want milk in your tea, then try an Assam, Ceylon, Kenyan, or a blend of those types. Try brewing the tea for 1-3 minute(s) and adding milk to taste. Here in Kenya, the Kenyans heat enough milk (or milk and water combined) for a cup(s) and then brew the tea in the milk/water combination, adding in sugar at the end. Though I personally don’t make my tea in this fashion, I have enjoyed a good cup of “milk chai” while visiting with people on several occasions.

Now, if like me you’d rather NOT have milk in your tea, then I would suggest you try some of the wonderful Chinese blacks. They seldom produce the astringency of other blacks that are enjoyed with milk and in the case of the Yunnans, have a natural sweetness to them as well. Some of my favorites are the Yunnan blacks, Keemuns, and Lapsang Souchong. Brew a teaspoon of leaves from 2-4 minutes, add some sweetener if desired, and enjoy.

Hope this helps to get you started. Steepsters, if there is misinformation above, please feel free to correct it.

From what I know about black teas, it looks like you did great job of covering all of the basics, and it sounds like you have more experience than I do with milk in tea.

It’s great to have someone from Kenya out here in the Steepster universe! : )

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I almost always add a little sugar (sugar in the raw). I occasionally add a little milk to tea, and for the right tea, it’s definitely a treat.

As George Orwell famously wrote -

“This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.”

Maybe if we knew what your bad tea/milk experience was, we might be able to let you know what the issue was?

Well the bad experience was without additives, which is how i usually drink my tea

Blake said

Orwell also said never to add sugar =]

It always amused me that Orwell called for milk second. Granted, he had a perfectly logical reason to do so (in times of rationing), and the class perspective was probably long gone by this point, but as I understand it pouring milk after the tea was once reserved for the upper class trying to show that they were in fact the upper class.

Could we get a bit more detail on that bad experience? There are quite a few variables. I was born and raised a milk and sugar black tea drinker, but have gotten to the point now where it’s a toss up. It depends on the tea itself and my mood. I’ve also taken to using whole milk lately (raised on, and only drink skim) as I feel like I need to use less. I keep half a gallon on hand strictly for tea, while I still use skim for everything else. I’ve also found that if I’m adding milk or sugar, I’m adding milk AND sugar. Not sure why that is, but it generally is.

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Thanks everyone, this gave me some good ideas!

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David Lau said

Try Hong Kong style milk tea made with condensed milk and enjoyed hot. It’s very good =)

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teawade said

I agree with everything stated above. Finding your taste and your flavor is one of best parts of drinking tea. Every experience is your own. I like to add sugar and some milk to my black teas but there are no wrong answers. BJC’s insight to different kinds of black teas was very informative. Looks like you have some great suggestions here!

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