Adding milk to tea? Chai lovers, go right ahead

Victorian woman drinking tea Milk or no milk with your cuppa tea? (Image: Sandhya Raghavan)

I am a simple woman. I don’t care what Facebook has been doing with my data or know whether we are all marching towards a climate apocalypse. All I know is that I love tea with milk.

I’ve written many paeans for caffeinated beverages on this blog before. And no beverage is closer to my heart than good old Indian chai is.

The truth about adding milk to tea

So imagine my heartbreak when I found this study back in 2007 when I was poring over the newspaper. The study published in the European Heart Journal says that milk tea diminishes your body’s ability to dilate its blood vessels thereby reducing its capacity to absorb antioxidants. Milk proteins bind with the antioxidants in tea, affecting their ability to fight free radicals.

Now that I knew this, I couldn’t look at my favourite cuppa chai the same way. I’ve initiated many cleanse diets (with little to no success) and gone off milk tea completely. Only to realise that black tea isn’t quite my cup of tea. Not before long, I was adding milk to my favourite beverage again.

But…but…but… what about the polyphenols, the milk proteins and all the havoc they would wreak together? 

I hear you. The good news is that the 2007 study is not the only one that explored the connection between milk proteins and tea. There have been several others.

Why people slurp tea and why we hate it

Research is mixed at best

While some said that it decreased the antioxidant activity, others said that adding milk to tea showed no significant effects and could even afford some benefits.

One study says that it probably decreases the antioxidant capacity by 30% at best. This means you still have 70% right there in your cup.

Since the research looks pretty much muddled right, I decided to look at the glass half full and focus only on the benefits of drinking tea with milk.

Sneak in some micronutrients

Say what you want about milk, but it is loaded with some health benefits. A cup of milk, according to USDA, can give you 5% of Vitamin B-6, 7% of your daily requirements of vitamin A,  18% cobalamin, 27% of calcium and 31% of vitamin D.

It’s easier on the tongue.

Brits apparently added cool milk to hot tea to prevent their expensive chinas from cracking. But you can’t deny the more obvious value addition — taste. Unless it’s a case of an acquired taste, most people prefer a splash of milk in their tea because it masks the otherwise bitter taste of tea.