Is Milk in Tea a Flavoring?

Milk and tea seem to be a topic that is popping up on this blog quite a bit lately. From exploring the correct way to add milk to A Tea Drinker’s Experiment with Milk to my own toe-dipping into the whole issue of whether milk should be put in the cup first or not, the issue seems to be getting a thorough treatment. Or is it? Most seem to be missing an important question: Is milk added in to your tea in essence a flavoring of that tea?

Is the milk here a flavoring or not? You decide.
Is the milk here a flavoring or not? You decide.

Considering my latest exposition on the whole topic of losing my taste for flavored teas, I, too, missed this important point. Officially, a flavored tea is one where “stuff” is added to the dry tea, thus steeping up with the tea leaves and creating a liquid that combines the flavors of each ingredient. This is sort of like stew, soup, casserole, and so on. The flavors cook together.

Adding milk into tea, whether you put it in the cup first and then pour in the tea or vice versa, is a different matter. The tea flavor does not steep together with the milk. In fact, as Elise Nuding showed in her recent article, if you add milk while the tea is steeping, you get a bit of a mess. Making a stovetop version of masala chai is another matter, but still means adding the milk after the tea has had a chance to steep a bit.

Here is a version hubby and I make on a fairly regular basis:


  • 2 tsps Assam
  • 1/8 tsp tea masala mix (contains black pepper, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg), adjust the amount as needed
  • 2 cups of cold water
  • 2/3 cups of whole milk (you could use reduced fat milk or soy “milk”, but skim/fat free milk is not recommended)


  • Put the tea, masala, and water in a saucepan.
  • Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. (This imparts tea flavor into the water along with the spices.)
  • Add milk and bring back to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for another 3 minutes. (This combines the milk flavors with the tea/spice flavor.)
  • Strain into mugs and enjoy. (Hubby recommends you let it sit about 1 minute to let all the flavors blend and the tea to cool slightly.)

According to the above recipe, I would call milk definitely a flavoring. In that case, milk is a very acceptable tea flavoring. On the other hand, once the tea is fully steeped and added into the cup, technically whatever you add to it could not be classified officially as a flavoring, even though it alters the tea’s flavor.

These are just my own musings here and by no means anything definitive. If you have contrary thoughts, by all means share them here.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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