Cream & Sugar?

I’ve been spending a lot of time experimenting with different teas (mainly Roobios & greens) and I’m wondering how people feel about adding cream or sugar to one’s tea. Does it chemically do anything to the tea? Does it always add flavor or take away? Anyone have any rules of thumb? Thanks!

26 Replies
gmathis said

I prefer 1/2 and 1/2 instead of cream or milk; and generally only to darker black teas and some flavored teas (caramels, chocolates, chai; no fruit or floral flavors).

I believe—no doubt some of the experts can confirm or correct me—that traditional British practice is “milk in first,” but I choose to add a half teaspoon at a time so I can get the taste adjusted to my druthers.

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Cofftea said

I only add dairy to my chais, but not always. At home it’s either milk or creamer (not cream). If I add milk it’s in a ratio of either equal parts water to tea or 1 part water to 2 parts tea. If I add creamers it’s either 1tsp or 1TBS to 6oz chai. And that’s for black based chais. Green and white based chais I always take clean. I never add sugar to anything.

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i add sugar to 95-98% of the teas i drink and it all depends on the taste of the tea before i add sugar as it how much ill be adding. i used milk or cream in my cinnamon flavored black tea or my chais and thats about it.

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DavidT said

For creamer typed additions, I put it only in black varieties, and then it depends on what type. Also, I use soy milk. Recent studies have shown dairy products instantly bind to the cardio-beneficial molecules in tea, negating any good they may have done. I’ll link below to the wiki entry about it. I strongly suggest using a non-dairy alternative like soy or rice milk if you’re trying to reap the healthy benefits of tea.

For sugar (or honey), it all depends on the tea, sweetened to taste if at all. I always use very little, and never a whole tsp per cup’s worth. Well, unless we’re talkin masala chai, then ya gotta get it nice and sweet :)

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Carolyn said

I use Silk soy creamer in my black teas and sometimes in pu-erhs. For teas that are strong (like blacks) I feel it adds to the tea and tones it down a bit. Teas that are delicate would be overwhelmed by it, I think.

I very seldom use sugar (or my preferred sweetener: honey) because the tea generally tastes fine as it is to me. Also, I don’t eat sugar-sweetened items in the rest of my life so I suspect that my taste buds wouldn’t handle the added sweetness very well.

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I love half and half and sugar in tea. I’ve been reading my Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, and it seems that milk and sugar in tea is very middle class British, and recent (meaning last few hundred years – and Assam teas just started being produced around 1850!)- the long tradition goes with no milk or sugar and fine chinese (and Japanese green) teas. It made me feel a little like the person who prefers cool whip to real whipped cream if you know what I mean!!!!! :) (to make it “worse” I love blends, and flavored teas! but…that is what I like!)

I think the best you can do is experiment, and respect the results of your experimentation. Tea for me is about comfort, and I think that’s why I like the ones that take milk and sugar well. For some people, it’s about health – some tradition, some a mixture of many things. Keep trying lots of things, and see how it ends up :)

Carolyn said

While it may be true that sugar and milk are recent in the West, one must remember the Tibetans have been using butter in their tea for quite a while. I recall reading about areas of China that used milk in their tea in the 15th century. (I’m reading a book about the history of trade.)

I suspect that tea produced for trade (ie. black and pu-erh teas) have always encouraged additions like milk, sugar, or butter to the tea. Teas that are too delicate to survive long ocean voyages or long trips by horse across the Himalayas or the Steppes (ie. senchas, fine Chinese greens, etc.) typically don’t do well with additions like milk or butter.

I agree with your advice on experimentation and enjoying tea in one’s own way.

I did not know that about butter in Tibetan tea! That’s fascinating.

Milk in beverages must be a loaded topic – I remember when I went to Italy and stayed with my relatives, they told me that I could have milk with my coffee in the morning, but if I took it with my afternoon coffee I’d be considered a baby! Only children drink milk in their coffee beyond the morning (which made sense to me because my grandparents always gave me very milky coffee after dinner, but when I tell that story to most Americans, they are shocked that children are allowed coffee!)!

Carolyn said

I think cultural traditions around food and drink are always loaded topics. Food customs always have a primal power over our imagination because food itself is a primal experience. Add to that the fact that how we prepare our food and how we serve it is a way of indicating adherence to our cultural group (or rejection of other cultural groups) and you have a recipe for loaded topics.

But here on Steepster we have the freedom to find our own way in the world of tea and we can reveal our preferences and enjoy the new ideas on preparing and drinking tea that others reveal. I’ve learned so much here that has enriched my own experiences with tea that I really don’t know where to start.

teawing said

Ok, this thread is a year old but I could not resist, I think the butter the Tibetans use is Yak butter. I wonder if we can get some in the states???
I was reading a book recently about a a group of Soviet dissidents who made their way of escape via Tibet, they mentioned the “spiced Yak buttered tea” and mention that at times, the butter seemed out of date (rancid) but the Tibetans used it anyway.

I love Steepster, I always learn from reading a thread, listening in on interesting discussions, and making new friends.


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Erynn said

I’ll take half and half but no sweeteners in my black teas. I like the flavor, but it also buffers the tannins that can upset my tummy if I have too much black tea. Greens, oolongs, and flavored teas (except chais) don’t get dairy at all. Occasionally I’ll use almond or hazelnut milk, though it’s not as creamy as half and half.

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I add rice milk to my chais most of the time, and occasionally to others (like the blueberry rooibos—yum!). Rice milk isn’t creamy at all and doesn’t affect the texture, but I’ve always felt that soy was too heavy and added too much of a flavor of its own, and that almond milk would do the same.

What are peoples’ experiences with hemp milk?

I tend to sweeten my chais with agave nectar. Any others that I ever sweeten I tend to do so with rock sugar. One exception is an amazing white tea chai (which I have yet to log or note, because I’m rationing out the tail end of what I have left!), to which I add rock sugar just for its delicacy.

Cofftea said

I’m always interested in white chais! Looking forward to that tasting note:)

It’s from Teavana, their White Ayurvedic Chai. It’s sublime. (And, Cofftea, you’ll see that it has black and red pepper in it!):

At $40/8oz it’s my most expensive tea, and I’m almost through the 2oz pack I bought to try it out. I will get more—I won’t be able to stop myself—and it’s worth it.

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I have a vested interest in this topic (I sell tea sugars!) but I almost always add sugar to my tea. It’s probably because I’m from the South, but I just like it that way. Having said that, I rarely add cream, because it changes the texture of the beverage in a way I don’t like as much (a bit chewier, in my opinion). :)

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Chi of Tea said

depends on the tea of course.

But I add milk/cream and cane sugar to flavored black tea, lapsang, black pu-erh, rooibos tea and certain oolongs that take milk well.

But not: Golden Yunnan, Green, White, Herbal or really fine tea.

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